The Muslim Infuence on European Civilization:
Producer As-SahabAudio/Visual sound, color
[Taken from, 'The Arab's Impact on European Civilization' by Abbas Mahmoud Al-Akkad]
Medicine, Science, Geography, Astronomy, Mathematics, literature, Fine arts, Music, Philosophy and Civilisation;
Medicine and Science
In the Odyssey Homer lauded the efficiency of the Egyptian doctor. Herodotus mentioned many times that they cured a great variety of diseases in which they specialized and excelled. He wrote once that Qorsh had invited an oculist from Egypt, and that Dara had admired and praised them very much. The Greeks know ‘Amhoteb’ father of wisdom in Old Cairo, and used to call him in their own language ‘Amotycos’. They learned from Egyptian Medicine a great number of cures and copied the Egyptian's surgery instruments as they were, with out effecting any change in them.
The Greeks also learned some medicine from the Chaldeans in ancient times, when it was mixture of witchcraft and incantation.
Then the wheel of human culture turned a complete cycle in this profession, which all people need. The Greeks returned to the Egyptians all they had taken from them with their own additions, that took place in the age of the Alexandria School. The Greeks also returned what they had taken from the Chaldeans and the Assyrians by the end of the East Romanian Empire. At that time there was leftover a portion of the heritage of the Monasteries and their priests. It was being taught to the students of science in Greek and Latin, who were mostly theologians
The Persians invoked the help of the Assyrian and Roman doctors, who established the School of Medicine and Hospital called ‘Jindisabur’. All the surrounding peoples depended on this medical school and Hospital or completing their medical studies and learning the methods of medical treatment practiced by other. One of its talented Arab students was Al-Hareth Ren-Kelda who had learnt medicine before Islam, then adopted the Islamic faith.
Medical treatment was practiced by the Arabs many ages before Islam. They followed the Bedouin method of mixing medicine with sooth-saying, and cured diseases in primitive ways. Each tribe had its own fortune-teller, whom they consulted on all occurrences, including sickness and complaints.
A verse was said in this connection ‘I shall recognize the sagacity of the Fortune-tellers of Yamama and Najd, If they ever cure me’.
The fortune-tellers used in their medical treatment, charms, incense and drugs which were often accompanied by incantations and spells. Besides the fortune-tellers, there were specialist doctors who did not practice sooth- saying or hoodwink the patient by uttering names of ginns or idols. They used to treat patients by bleeding, cauterizing, supping, putting them on diets and prescribing some drugs and herbs which used to grow in Arabia or be imported from India and China. The recommendations of these doctors reflect their skill in curing the body. As Al-Hareth Ben-Kelda put it.
(He who wants to live long must observe the following advice, Failing which there is no longevity. Take Lunch early; put on light clothes; and minimize intercourse with women).
Moawia asked him : ‘ what is Medicine, Hareth? Hareth replied, ‘Hunger, Moawia. Hareth advised not to take a bath after eating and minimizing debts and worries. The doctors had an effective method for treating difficult cases. They used to take the patient to the Caravan routes where he could be seen by persons who had suffered the same disease. Then they would tell him the cure that had healed them.
It seems that the occupation of the Arabs with cattle grazing for a long time alienated them from witchcraft medicine and drew them nearer to medicine based on practical experiments. They watched pregnancy, birth, growth and the relevant stages of life evolution. They fixed the parts of the body, and had an almost correct knowledge of the location and function of its organs. With this knowledge they could nearly specify the
disease and its remedy.
When Islam came, it wiped out witchcraft and opened the door wide for physical medicine. Islam tabooed treatment by witchcraft and superstition. It did not replace soothsayers and fortune-tellers with a new class that practiced that line of business in the guise of religion. The Prophet Muhammad (Peace be with him) permitted the consultation of doctors though they were non-Muslims. When Saad Ibn Abi Wakas fell sick during his farewell pilgrimage, the Prophet sent him back saying ‘I pray to Allah to restore your health so that you may strike the bad peoples and benefit the good ones’. Then he said to Hareth Ben Kelda, ‘Treat Saad’, and Hareth was a non-Muslim. Loqman the Wise was mentioned in the Quran with what means "We conferred on Loqman wisdom so that may thank- Allah. Medical treatment was over and above other though it was not a vocation for religious people".
For this reason Christian doctors multiplied in the Islamic State. Oriental Christian Doctors made many achievements in medicine while the European Church was banning the medical trade on the pretext that illness was a punishment meted out by Allah, which man should not interfere with. Medicine remained banned until the end of the so-called (Age of Faith’, viz. at the beginnings of the 12th century A.D., dawn of the Andalusian civilization.
900 doctors were invited to sit for exam. in Baghdad during the reign of Al-Moqttader Bellah; in addition there were the professors, who were authorities in medicine and thus above examination. This points out great care for medicine and hygiene that had no parallel in any other ancient civilization.
The great number of doctors and teachers of medicine imply that medicine was being studied to cater for a whole society and not on individual initiative.
It is possible that at the beginning kings called in famous doctors; it is also possible that some Syrian and Byzantine monks and Savants were devoted to the study of science; yet the capital could not be served by more than one thousand doctors, all at one time, unless they needed to serve an extensive society. The Assyrians and Romans were tied down to their places during the reigns of the Caesars and Chosroes. They used to live among their peoples, relatives, books and possessions and had not moved away. Knowledge did not record such an achievement and living did not rise such a high standard under the banners of the Romans or the Persians. But the new thing to notice is the favorable reaction on society which was brought about by the rise of the new state, founded by Islamic ingenuity and on the tolerance of the tolerance of the new religion.
Industry was not in itself the target of that great movement of development and the wide range of education. Doctors used to add to the science of medicine other branches such as philosophy, engineering, astronomy, and chemistry. They so wrote books on these different branches of science and sought information on them wherever it was.
Some courses were sufficient to quality a student to practices the medical trade in those ages. But science we learnt for science's sake. The students were not satisfied with the books of the ancient Greeks, Persians and Indians. They referred to all information that could enlarge the scope of their research-work. They made equal treatises on books of medicine, engineering, astronomy, etc.
They wrote down all their readings and translations and compiled them in books. The result was the appearance of treatises that comprised Indian formulae besides the Arabian, or Persian or Greek ones. They were deep academic works, not written for making profit.
The under mentioned books were great treatises on Islamic medicine. They were unparalleled in their deep research and academic scope. These treatises were wholly translated into Latin. Consequently that trade was taken up by European doctors from time to time. Until the dawn of modern ages there had been no European scientists who hold a candle to the Arab authors in that branch of science. The Europeans are fond of alleging that they seek science for science's sake and accuse the Easterners of seeking science for money's sake. But this is not the case. The European doctors read Arabic reference books in order to derive there from the greatest benefit in making money. The monks and priests were an exception. They renounced mundane life, and not overtly seek money through practicing med and other trades.
The Book of Law by Ibn-Sina in the 12th century was translated. This book is a thesis on all the findings in medicine reached by the Arabs, Greeks, Indians, Assyrians and Anbath.
The `Magician' book by Al-Razi in 1279 was also translated. It is bigger and wider in range than the Book of Law. This book was completed by the disciples of Al-Razi after his death, because it was a work that could not be undertaken by one individual alone.
All the Books by Ben-Haitham were translated in that age. They were references in optics for all succeeding Europeans.
It has been found from the records of Louvan University that Al-Razi and Ibn-Sina books had been considered by the professors of that university as the only authentic references until the beginning of the 17th century. Further supplies came from Arabian Andalusia. Andalusia supplied Europe with the lengthiest reference book in surgery and the setting of Broken Bones. This book is entitled ‘Knowledge for Those Who Do not Have It’ (Al-Taarif Liman Agaza An Al-Tasrif) by Abu-El- Kassem Khalaf Ben Al-Abbas. It was printed in Latin in the 15th century. Before it was put in print, it existed as loose-leaf lessons that were handed round by those who practiced in the trade to which they had referred in their surgical work, particularly in opening the bladder and extracting stones. The Great Physicist Haller said in the story of Gustav Lobon that books of Abu-Al Kassem were references for all the surgeons after the 14th century. He left a booklet on all the surgical instruments. The booklet showed drawings of these instruments, and explained how they were used.
Hospitals spread throughout the Islamic State after the third century A.H. The Arabs followed a clever system to ensure healthy air and a suitable location for the construction of hospitals, thus doing without the modern scientific methods adopted after the discovery of germs and the system of analysis wherever there was decay, they shunned the place and moved to another place where there were less signs of decay.
The Arabs took up medicine when it was in the course of its long transition between the ancient theories and the modern ones. There was the theory enunciated by Bokrat, viz. the cardinal humors were four blood, phlegm, gall and black bile; that illness was due to the disproportion of those humors, and that remedy thereof was effected by restoring their original proportion. Galen enunciated the theory that humors were four : they were heat, coldness, dryness and moisture. He who was hit by heat was to be remedied by coldness, and he who was hit by moisture was to be remedied by dryness. Thus each case of sickness was treated on these lines. But critics of these theories, particularly Bokrat's theory, multiplied among the students of the Alexandria School. Erasistratus condemned that theory and advised his followers to ignore it, and gave preference to close observation. Their successors wrote prescriptions in the light of information they obtained from the patients they had interviewed, and comparing the latter's cases with other patients. They put on record the symptoms of all cases.
When the Arabs took up medicine that trade was at cross-roads between oblivion into which it was falling and the new theories which were appearing. Science as a whole had not completely developed to devise new theories. They therefore relied on observation and experiment and did not completely depend on theories and invent new ones. They laid out remedies. They did not stick to Galen's theory of curing coldness with heat and vice-versa. Some used to remedy coldness with coldness in some cases, or combine heating, cooling and moistening. Said Ben Bashar, Principal of the First Aid Hospital in Baghdad used to do so. They also remedied by transplanting as could be inferred from their discourses on the functions of animal's organs.
They anticipated the Europeans in describing leprosy, small pox and measles and remedying eye-diseases. They broached the theory of Freud in psychological therapy and its connection with sexual matters. Their approach was made on experimental basis that deserves to be followed in collecting information and writing down observation. It is related that once the mistress of Al-Rashid had stretched out her hand beyond limit. She could not reflex it back to its proper place, and the hand remained stretched out. It was treated by rubbing over an ointment and fats, but that did not avail. Al-Rashid consulted Gabriel Ben Bakhtaishouh who explained as follows ‘If his highness the Commander of the Faithful will not get angry at me, may I try a trick? Al-Rashid replied, ‘And what is it?’ Gabriel said ‘The concubine comes over here in the company of some people. Then I shall do with her what I like; please give me a chance and do not attack me’. Al-Rashid ordered that the concubine be brought over to Gabriel. when she came, Gabriel strode toward her, lowered his head, and held the tail of her dress as if he wanted to strip her of it. The concubine was greatly upset, flung her hand downward and held back her tail. Then Gabriel told the Caliph of the Faithful, ‘She healed’. Caliph of the Faithful asked him how that happened. Gabriel said, ‘This concubine is cold in her physical organs during intercourse; she needs light caressing, and generation of heat for a while; the abrupt end of intercourse freezes the remaining beat inside the nerves; it is unfrozen by a similar action. Heat has been evened, the frozen remainder has been unfrozen and now she is fit and sane’.
Another story is related about Ibn Sina. He was once called to examine a young man, whose disease was unknown to the doctors. Ibn Sina gave order to bring a fortune-teller from the town. when the fortune-teller came, Ibn Sina held the hand of the young patient in order to feel his pulse and observe his face. Meanwhile, he asked the fortune-teller to enumerate the different quarters of the town. The fortune-teller enumerated them until he came to the name of one quarter. Then, the man's pulse increased. Ibn Sina asked the fortune-teller to enumerate the houses of that quarter, then the fortune-teller mentioned one particular house amongst them, the man's pulse increased more, Ibn Sina asked the fortune-teller about the female inmates of the house. Then he told the man's parents (Marry him to that girl because she is his remedy’.
Arab Doctor used to treat mental incapacity in the same way as they treated physical disease Mental incapacity used to be called by the Franks ‘divine disease or devilish disease’ because they believed it was inflicted by spirits or devils.
The Arabs' researches in medicine went hand-in- hand with their researches in chemistry. The Europeans greatly benefited from their researches in that new field and perhaps the benefits they derived from the Arabs' research in alchemy exceeded the information they gained from the Arabs in medicine.
The chemical term (alkali’ is originally the Arabic word for silver wash, a most important acid used in chemical experiments, was not defined in any book before that of ‘Gaber Ben Hayyan’. The credit for discovering ammonia, gold wash, potassium, sulphuric acid and other poisons known to the Europeans goes to him. His books ‘The Seventy’ and ‘Chemical compositions’ were translated into Latin at the beginning of the 12th century. His books remained reference authorities for the Europeans until the end of the 17th century, when his book; ‘Consummation’ was translation into French in 1672.
The Books of ‘Al-Razi’ and ‘Gaber Ben Hayyan’ were copied. The Europeans learnt from these books the division of chemical substances into botanical zoological and mineral; and the most accurate sub-divisions of minerals ever known in the middle ages. The European history was not so much effected by Arabs' mineral discoveries as by their discovery of gun-powder which the Europeans used in manufacturing war missiles and weapons.
In physics the Arabs defined the specifies gravity of a great number of substances and precious stones. They reproduced the Greeks' concept of gravity and the cause of weight. It consists in the concept that heavy bodies gravitate towards their original minerals lying in the center of the Earth, and that ethereal bodies gravitate towards their origin in the sky. But Al-Biruni was doubtful of this concept and put a question to Ibn Sina which implied his inclination to the belief that all ethereal bodies gravitate towards the center of the Earth. The question reads as follows : ‘which of the two propositions is correct : 1) that water and earth converge on the center whereas air and fire diverge from it, 2) All these elements converge on the center, but the heavier precedes the lighter in its convergence’.
All those views had paved the way for Newton's discovery of the Law of Gravity and lying down the causes of weightiness on the modern scientific basis.
Al-Biruni has the credit of being the first scientist to study liquids in springs on land and up-hill, and the forces that govern their flow in equilibrium and on heights. The sons of Moussa Ben Shaker, authors of the Book ‘Tricks’ which is considered an original reference in ‘mechanics’ before its last evolution in the machine age, were devoted readers of these research-works in Arabic.
Although the research-works on alchemy before the 18th century were simple, the Arabs' books and treatises were considered the best references in those sciences by Europeans and non-Europeans. They collected the different ancient information on zoology and botany and expanded and added to it. They imported information from India, Chaldea, Greece and Anbath. They relied on observation in their country and outside their country. Dia' El- Din Al-Malqi, known as Ibn-Bitar, is a case in point. He was born at Malqa and toured the Islamic world. He went as far as the farthest end of the Roman Empire in quest of herbs and other plants. The Impeccable Ayoubi appointed him head of Herbalists in the Egyptian State. That post corresponded with actual combined functions of a botanist and pharmacologist. He wrote a book entitled ‘The singular cures’. That book contained the selected information accumulated in his time on that point.
It is mentioned in the book ‘European Civilization Politically, Socially and Culturally’ by the Professors of Philosophy James Westphal Tosson, Franklin Charles Bam and Fan Nostrand that, ‘Most of the Greek’ legacy of science was copied in Arabic in about two centuries Cairo, Baghdad, Qairawan and Carthage became outstanding centers of science and its education, The Greco-Arab culture began to infiltrate into Western Europe by the end of the 11th and 12th centuries.
Its infiltration was not a result of the Crusades invasions. It actually moved from Sicily to Italy; from Islamic Spain to Christian Spain and thence to France Quick-witted people vied with each other in proceeding to Palermo and Toledo, to learn the Arab language and other branches of Arab science. The striking thing about these people was that they were mostly English nationals such as Edillard Of Bath, Daniel Of Murley, Roger of Hertford and Alexander Nickouam. Edillard Of Baths' treatise on physical questions was the first scientific work ever produced by Western Europe in the Middle Ages. Some students stayed many years in Spain they passed the rest of their lifetime in translating the Arabs' scientific books into Latin. Gerard of Crimona, who died in 1187, translated 71 different books of those works at the age of 73. Plato of Tiffoli was next to Gerard in the abundance of production. And in this way Europe had acquired all the Greco-Arab output of science.
Scientific education at the modern universities became established. The pre-eminent scientists in the age of English Friars (1292 1214) was Roger Bacon, and he was not less glorious than Albert the Great. Both of them taught at the University of Paris. The thirteenth century hardly turned its fifties when a collection of those different branches of knowledge was compiled in a big Book by Vincent Of Bovis, which he called ‘Mirror of Nature’ That Book contained all the information that had been collected in that age about Medicine, Cosmology, Astronomy, Geography, the Atmosphere, the Strata of the Earth, Minerals, Animals, Anatomy, etc.
The significance of the effect of these cultural work on Europe is not limited to the enumeration of information collected; to how much information the Arabs had given to or taken from the Europeans. The important thing to notice is that the Europeans had taken over the torchlight of science from the Arabs. With it they dispelled their obscurity and in its light they have made great achievements in modern science. Had not the Arabs carried that torchlight Eastward and Westward, the Europeans would have encountered many great difficulties in rekindling it. And had they succeeded in rekindling it, its light would have hardly lasted for three centuries. Man would not have attained that glorious achievement which has taken tens of conturies of human labor to materialize.
Geography, Astronomy and Mathematics
Ptolemy Author of the magesta, is considered the first teacher of Geography in very early times, and his name was the most famous one made known by the Arabs in Europe many centuries after his birth.
It is wrong to assume that Geography is originally Greek in its theories and hypothesis, because it is attributed to an author whose name is made up of Greek words, Potlemy himself drew much from the Egyptians and the Phoenicians. He was preceded by Greek geographers and travelers who relied on the peoples of Egypt and Babylon in proving the truth of the traditional theories of Geography, which cover amongst other things the Nile, Ethiopia and the seven zones of the world. The seven zones concept is Babylonia. The people of Babylon in ancient times used to talk about the seven planets and the seven days and looked to the number seven as divine characteristic.
Ptolemy was brought up in Alexandria. He drew from the Egyptian heritage information about astronomy! Almanacs travels, and travelers' stories about their trips on land and sea in Paranoiac times. These travels were so extensive among the ancient Greeks that they were reflected in the Iliad and Odyssey by Homer, and in the work of other poets.
As a result of the established relationship between the knowledge of the ancient Egyptians and the Alexandrians the schools of Geography greatly flourished in Alexandria. It had no much in the Roman Empire and Greece. In Alexandria Paulpious, Basedonious, Theovan and Methying became famous. Strabo also proceeded to Alexandria about one hundred years before Ptolemy. Apart from that, there were astronomers who were engaged in geographical researches.
Ptolemy pays tribute to ‘Marnious Al-Soury's’ book which embodies the experience of Phoenicians and Egyptians. He relied much on that book in the division of latitudes and longitudes.
In effect, all historians are unanimously agreed that Europe had not known Ptolemy's geography before it was introduced to it through Arab culture. Geography was imported to the Europeans after the Muslim Geographers had elaborated and added to it, particularly the expeditions of Al Biruni to East Asia.
Ibn Younis Al-Masri invented the pendulum in the 9th century. Later its movement was adjusted and its formation regulated.
We must attribute the invention of the magnetic needle to the Arab and Muslim navigators. Their attribution to Chinese inventors is very doubtful. Similar is their attribution to the Romans and Greeks. There were unhindered exchange between the Chinese and Arabs in the field of navigation, as ships had been plying for a long time between the Arab Hira and Chinese ports. Gustay Lobon the scholar proved in his book about Arab civilization, that the needle was invented by the Arabs. His proofs is valuable if it lacks affirmative evidence, it is not wanting in likelihood.
There were outstanding geographers in the Islamic East, who added to `that branch of science sound conclusions derived from their observation of stars, and what they saw during their expeditions and investigations of history. But it was Andalusia which brought together the best of this information and diffused it through the adjacent European Countries. The Sherif El-Idrisi had the credit of collecting the material of this branch of science, renovating it, and promoting it among the distinguished class in his time. In the 12th century, the Norman King of Sicily, Roger II wanted to complete the geographical information obtained in his age. He found nobody other than Idrisi the Sherif to depend upon to do this task. Idrisi was born in Sabtah and had his tuition in Cordova; his fame spread throughout the civilized Islamic and Christian world. He wrote the book ‘Trip by a Traveler Eager To Explore The Horizons’ The king made him a ball of silver, to stand for the Globe He was requested to mark on this ball all his findings about the Earth. The ball weighed 400 Roman Rotls. No one had preceded Idrisi in discovering the upper sources of the Nile which were then mapped out.
These maps are kept in some European museums, of which one is in the saint Martin Museum, shows the Nile flowing from lakes, to south of the Equator. It is to be noted that Geographers had, since the days of Herodotus who was an authority on history, been at a loss in determining the sources of the Nile and the causes of its flood. One of the maps portraying Columbus' picture of the globe had its contours and concepts taken from the Arabs. He imagined the globe like an oblong pear. One tip rises in India in climate, fruits, crops and water. Columbus' map was inspired by the map of Cardinal Peter Elaili, which was called imago mundi. The cardinal relied on Arab source in drawing the map, and published it at the beginning of the 15th century i.e. 80 years before Columbus set out on his voyage. This is a tribute paid to the Arabs in the discovery of the new world.
The Europeans used to believe, before the appearance and diffusion of Arab books on Geography - that the Earth was flat. That belief was consistent with the church's denial of the roundness and rotation of the Earth. Had that European belief continued to prevail, it would have been impossible for Columbus to think of sailing to the West in order to reach the Asian countries. The Arabs propagated that fact in the important books of Geography they had written. Ibn Kherdazba, Who died in 885 A.C. `wrote ‘The earth is a round ball, and lies inside the spheres in the same way as the yolk lies inside the egg’. Ibn Rasta, who died in 903 wrote, Allah, be He praised, made the spheres as round as the ball, hollow and rotating. The Earth is also as round as the ball and solid, and lies inside the spheres) He gave evidence to this effect. He said, ‘The evidence of that fact lies in that the sun, the moon and other planets do not rise and set on all beings, all over the Earth at one time. They rise on the Eastern parts before they set on the Western parts. This is evidenced by what happens in the high permanents. When an occurrence takes place, it is seen in different shapes over the different parts of the Earth such as a lunar eclipse) when it is observed in two remote countries one in the East and one in the West. If for instance it is observed in the Eastern country in three hours, I state that it is observed in the Western country in as much less hours as the length of the distance between the two countries is... etc’. Al-Massoudi, deceased in 956, wrote, ‘Allah be He Praised, made the higher sphere namely the Equinoxes circle, circle in type. There is in the first place the Earth which is surrounded by the sphere of the moon and the sphere of the moon is encircled by the sphere of Mercury etc’. Al-Massoudi said in his Book ‘The Golden Beads’ As the sun goes down in these isles i.e. the Oceanus Isles - it rises in the furtherest end of China, and that is half the circle of the earth)
Non-Geographers endorsed that fact by philosophic to a question put by Abu-Hussein Ahmad Al-Sahi about the existence of the Earth in Space and the maintenance of bodies fixed to it,’ it is necessary that all heavy bodies organic or inorganic tend to and gravitate towards the center of the world’. He summed up, ill concluding his treatise, the statements made bypredecessors. He said, ‘Some predecessors made different propositions. followers of Pythagoras stated that the Earth was constantly revolving in a circle. Others said that it was falling downwards. Some others held that the Earth was static’.
Thus the credit for spreading the knowledge of the roundness of the earth goes to the Arab books! That knowledge was the first step that had paved the way for Columbus and his contemporary followers. But for that step, the people of North Europe would have been the first discoverers of the New world, as they were nearest to it, and were as conversant with navigation as the people of the southern coasts.
However, we came across a viewpoint expressed by some linguists and historians, which affirmed that the Arabs were the first people to discover the new world. They endorsed viewpoint by reliable linguistic and historical evidences. One of the most famous advocators of that view is Bishop Anistas the Carmelite who made extensive researches on words and their derivatives and history. In referring to the gulf stream he wrote ‘The Arabs had anticipated all other peoples in recognizing the gulf stream and its characteristics. They knew its currency between Mexico and Ireland and vice-versa. They used to sail afloat it from one country to another; they surprised the inhabitants of the English Channel, i.e. the island of Tin and the inhabitants of Ireland. Where they left for Mexico some of them stayed over there; the few others returned home afloat that blessed gulf stream, thanking Allah for safe arrival. They used to stay in the territories known as Mexico’. These territories were called by the Arabs after the name of animals. These names still survive until now, though the peoples inhabiting these territories do not understand their meanings. Neither do the Western scientists who adopt them’.
Bishop Anistas continues to say, ‘Alligator is one of these names which is a kind of crocodile. The people do not know the source of this name. They simply attribute it to the place where that animal lives without any additions by them. That it was originally an Egyptian word is undoubted
We wish the evidence of the Arabs' discovery of the new world were stronger. The origin of the crocodile name from that Spanish word (alligator) is known. It is derived from the Spanish-root word ‘el lagarto’ which was miscopied from the Latin word ‘lacerata’, spiny-tailed lizard. The English word ‘lizard’ is derived from the Latin root word, and lizard is the English name of that animal, and both are akin.
However, we do not agree with Bishop Anistas that Columbus was indebted to the references dating back to the 5th century A.D. in his discovery of the new world. This is understood from his treatise; he, ‘The first man to pay attention to that question was a monk called Brenden, the roving sailor. He was born in 483 A.D., and came of the Royal family of Ireland. In 545 A.M. he prepared himself with some other 14 adventurous monks to realize his long-cherished ambition of exploring the earth. They built a small ship. In 522 A.D. Brenden and his companions landed on the American coast. No doubt Columbus was fully informed of the news of Brenden's trip. He succeeded in convincing King Ferdinand and Queen Isabelle to approve of that trip in quest of the new world’.
Brenden's story is doubtful because it has no original manuscript before the 11th century A.D. That story can plausibly be derived from an Arabic source. There was an Arabic narrative which related that some passengers landed on an extensively immense whale which they had believed to be an island. The whale moved and was about to drown them. The narrative did not give any description of the New World save the imaginary paradise promised for the devoted and saintly on Earth.
There were stories told by Arab Geographers about some venturers who had plunged into the Atlantic. Some of them had perished and the others returned with strange reports that sounded like fables. But the veracity of those stories was doubtful. AI-Massoudi alluded in his book ‘Morouj Al-Dahab’ to those adventurous people. He said, ‘Some of them took the risk and endangered their lives by sailing; some perished; some came out safe with all they had seen and witnessed...
Another story by Al-Idrisi in his description of ‘a Feast for the Eager’ (Nozhat Al-Moshtak). He said, ‘They left Lisbon and after twelve days, reached a billowy sea, badly smelling, full of shark and of dim light. They felt sure all was lost. They set sail southward and went on sailing for twelve days until they arrived at the Island of Cattle. There, they found innumerable cattle, grazing alone without a shepherd or overseer. They landed on the Island; there they found a running spring of water and a wild fig tree, bordering it. They slaughtered some of these cattle but found their meat sour and uneatable).
Al-Adrisi went on to say, ‘They were arrested and locked in a hours for three days. On the fourth day a man, speaking Arabic, entered the house and asked about their condition and where they had come from.
They told him their story. He promised them good news and told them that he was the interpreter of the King... When the king knew of their story, he laughed and told the interpreter, ‘tell the group that my father had ordered a number of his slaves to sail across that sea, and that they had been sailing across it for one month until light went out completely. They had to give up since their trip had failed.
Such stories are fabricated and doubtful, particularly when they recount that the adventurers found on the island ‘fair-complexioned men, with thin lank hair, a tall build-up, and astoundingly beautiful women’
Had those adventurers landed on the new continent, they would have seen there what Columbus saw, and returned with more credible reports than those descriptions. Their consensus adds nothing further to the guess that some Arab explorers had tried to explore the Atlantic but failed to reach its end. We can believe it, even confirm it without referring to these stories.
A stronger evidence of the precedence of the Arabs in exploring the New World is provided by the return of Columbus from America carrying gold mixed with copper in the same way and proportion as that adopted by the people of African Ghana. The language of the Red Indians include some European words, but it is intermixed with Arabic words. These Arabic words were older than the European words, and had been inflected and miss-constructed. However, the evidence of the gold alloy is stronger and more probable, as fixing the time when those Arabic words were merged in the languages of the Red Indians is next to impossible. This is due to the fact that expeditions between African Coasts and American Coasts, had greatly increased after the discovery of the New World. This was noticeable in the prosperous time of the Nakhassa, when the Nakhassa people and slaves intermingled with those who spoke Arabic in Western Africa. It is difficult to determine the histories of words in such languages as those of the Red Indians, which have no inscriptions or records.
It is worth reiterating Al-Biruni's statement that the whole matter relied on reports by reliable sources. The credit of the Arabs, based on the truths of geographic knowledge outweighs all other credit based on surmise.
Geography depends on these foundations : expeditions, investigation and star observation. And in all these fields the Arabs have left an unforgettable and undeniable heritage.
Traveling from the tenth to the sixteenth century was an Islamic art The People of Morocco particularly excelled in that art. They were the example for Europeans in that art. On the famous Muslim Travelers was Abu Obeid-Allah Al-Bakri, born at Murcia. He wrote two books ‘Ma'ogam Ma Est'agam’ (Lexicon of Obscurities) and ‘Al-Massalek wa Al-Mamalek’ (Routes and Kingdoms). He died at the end of the 11th century A.D. Another famous traveler was Al-Idrisi the Sherif, whom we mentioned before, Muhammad Ben Abdel-Rahman was also one of them. He was born in Cordova and wrote a book Nokhbat Al-Mzhan Fi Aga'eb Al-Beldan’ (Most Enlightened thoughts about strange countries). He died in the 12th century. Other Arab travelers were ibn Gobeir who was born at Valencia before the mid-l2th century and wrote the story of his expedition which was widely known among Arab readers; and the greatest traveler of the 14th century, Ibn-Battuta, author of the book ‘Tohfat Al-Nozzar Fi Ghara'ib Al-Amsar) (Best sight-seeings in the strangest territories).
Other Oriental travelers were Al-Massoudi, Ibn Hawkal, Yakout Al-Hamawi, Al-Biruni and many others. But these travelers were not as famous as the Moroccans, and did not leave extensive works as the others had done.
The Muslim traces in Navigation are still extant in some European words which preserve their original Arabic form, for example the words `Tare' of the ship, is originally in 0Arabic ‘Tar'h’; the word `feloque' is derived from the Arabic word `folok'; the word `calfata' from the Arabic word ‘Qalfatta’; `Amiral (Admiral) from the Arabic word `Amiral-Bahr'; `arsenal' from the Arabic word ‘Dar-Essena'a); risk (meaning adventure in gaining) from the Arabic word `risk'; `avala' from the Arabic word `Hawala'; `a'vaare' from the Arabic word `Aware'; and the German word `wissil' from the Arabic word `wassl'; `calibre' from the Arabic word `qaleb'...etc. We find many related words in the languages of the Spanish and Portuguese peoples.
Many engraving have been found on the Coasts of the Baltic Sea and in North Europe which date back to the Middle Ages. Islamic money was found amongst them. This money indicates that there was trade between the Eastern countries and the Northern parts of Europe, and that these latter areas had come within the range of Islamic Geography either by commercial exchanges or by visits for sight-seeing.
However, if the arrival of the Arabs in America before Columbus is not definitively ascertained, it is undoubted that they had gone too far across the Atlantic Ocean and reached the Azores, and explored its Southern most coasts.
As to Geographical knowledge obtained from Astronomy the Arabs have the credit of having measured the circumference of the Earth in the reign of Caliph Al Maamoun; then they adopted Al-Birumi's system in measuring it. Al-Biruni calculated the heights of mountains in minutes and degrees. They rectified latitude and longitudes; they proved the Solar Equinox; they put an ac curate almanac, and perfect astronomical tables. Gustay Lobon said in his book on Arab civilization. The annual calendar, which was rectified during the reign of the Sultan King Shah is more correct than the Gregorian Calegorian Calendar, which was completed by the Europeans 600 years, later. The Gregorian calendar markes a difference-error of 3 days every 10,000 years, whereas in the Arab Calendar there is only a 2-day difference- error. They had known the measurements of the day- line 1,000 year before the Europeans. They discovered the third difference in the trajectory of the moon which had been overlooked by Ptolemy. The Arabs marked locations on maps, and corrected many mistakes made by the Greeks in the degrees of latitudes and longitudes, of which Ptolemy's were in point. The Arabs' mistakes did not exceed minutes whereas those of the Greeks surpassed degrees.
There is no need to go deep into the science of astronomy to evidence the influence of the Arabs on the European nations. The Arabic names of the stars and planets and the orbits terminology still hold in the European astronomical vocabulary. We mention a few words of the many hundreds of this vocabulary
‘Altarer’ ‘Cursa’(from Korsi-Gaoza) ‘Caph’ ‘Arnab’ ‘Arkab’ from ‘Arkoub’ in Arabic, ‘Azimuth’ ‘Azha’, ‘‘Botein’, ‘Zuben Hakrabi’ from (Zabanti Al-Akrab) . ‘Wezn’ , ‘Vega’ from (Al-Nisr A Wagi), ‘Saros’ (from Sahour). (Saif) ‘Sadr’ (from Sadr Al-Dagaga), ‘Sadalsud’ from (Saad Al-Soud), ‘Rigel’ (from Rigl Al-Gabbar), Zaurek, Tauri (Karn Al-Thaur), ‘Errai’ ‘Deneb’ from (Dahab) and many similar names which retained their original form apart from those which were translated.
The relationship between astronomy and mathematics sums up the share of Arab culture in mathematics in its aggregate. The tiles here may save us the trouble of pointing out the details which will be numerated in this lengthy chapter ‘Algebra’ is an Arabic name and is called by it in all the European languages. The Greeks stopped at the elementary theories elaborated by Diophanstus, the Alexandrian Greek in the third century Gustav Lobon gave a resume' of the Arabs' advance in these branches of science. He said, the Arabs had introduced the tangent in trigonometry; they had solved cubic equations, and made extensive studies on cones, and replaced chords by sines. They also laid down basic theories for the solution of trilineal figures. Some authorities were quoted to have said that the innovations and additions of the Arabs were indeed a scientific revolution that had far-reaching effects.
Easterners are not over standing the fact that they had risen to the top of all branches of mathematics by grace of some Islamic mathematicians. Professor Karl Sachaw, who used to teach Semitic languages at the University of Vienna, said that Boiruni was at the top of all world geniuses.
Professor Laland, the famous French Astronomer of the 13th century, said about Al-Batani that he was one of the twenty greates mathematician in the ancient and modern world.
To throw more light on the rise of mathematics we have to ignore the nonsense talked by some modern Europeans to give credit to the Greeks alone for the initiation of geometry and application of mathematical theories to astronomy and other arts. Some of these Europeans were so fanatic that they pay tribute to Talis for his ability to predict an eclipse and ignore the tangible facts which evidence the priority of Egyptians and Babylonians in the field. Some of them wrote about the history of Greek Philosophy in the past and present, such as John Burnet; other wrote about the history of that philosophy from Talis to Plato, and ignored what Plato himself had written about the rise of mathematics. Plato stated in the Phaedras dialogues that Tout the Egyptian God, had invented arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and writing. Plato blamed his people on not caring as much as the Egyptians for those branches of science, as is mentioned in the seventh chapter of ‘The Laws’ where he said (the free should learn about these questions to the same extent as the Egyptians spend on tuition for a great number of children when they learn writing), the Egyptian children learn gradually addition, subtraction, division and move to the solution of problems on the measurement of lengths, surfaces and cubes. Plato concluded the dialogue in the words of the Athenian who expressed his regret for the prevailing shameful and ridiculous ignorance of other peoples in those studies.
Euclid, who came from tyre, had learnt from the disciples of Plato in Athens. He used to hear them speaking about the Egyptian Sages' fondness of mathematics and its wide scope of studies as a whole. No wonder then that he left for Alexandria, cut a figure in geometry that had been unmatched by the Athenians, who were limited to learning the information accumulated by their country on that Subject, without moving to either Egypt or Mesopotamia.
Talis himself came to Egypt. Heronymus said about him, ‘he began learning only when he came to Egypt and mixed with priests’
Herodotus imparted to us the story of Talis' prediction of eclipses; it is he who recounted that the Greeks had copied from the Babylonians the measuring instrument for calculating the motion of the sun through ecliptic, and the equinoxes on the basis of the sundial. Some books of history of mathematics allege that the Babylonians had observed eclipses and calculated their recurrence after every 223 lunar rotation, i.e. every 18 years and 11 days. They adopted that calculation from unknown times before any observation was ever ascribed to the Greeks.
It is therefore incongruous that the world be blinded by racial fanaticism and deny facts because science and quest of truth are inseparable. However overstated the contribution of the Greeks to the mathematical heritage may be, it is an unquestionable fact that they had taken from the Orient before the Orient took from them, and that the sons of that Orient handed over that legacy to the Europeans, after they had elaborated and added to it their innovations.
In ‘The Legacy of Islam’ Professor Gibb wrote a very interesting chapter on the influence of the Arabs on European literature. He quoted some excerpts from the lectures of Professor Mackail on poetry. He said ‘Europe is indebted to Arabia for her ‘Romance’ movement and to Judea for her faith.’... ‘And we - Europeans - are indebted to the Arabs in Arabia and Syria for most of the driving forces - or all those forces - which turned the Middle Ages into a different world in spirit and imagination from that by Rome’.
Professor Gibb does not admit this generalization; neither does he negate it completely. However, he does not deny the influence of the Arabs on European poetry and prose from the 13th century up to modern times. He believes that Arab influence infiltrated into European literature through the inspiration and tales told by Muslims who spoke Arabic and some other European languages as well as by some poets of Southern France whose knowledge of Arabic has not been ascertained.
However, we believe that the flourishing of Arabic literature in Andalusia and its legacy could not he ignored by the history of Europe. Arabic literature has directly influenced the tastes, thoughts, topics, psychological motives, and linguistic construction of the Europeans.
This belief is confirmed by the fact that there were three inroads which carried Arab culture to Europe in the Middle Ages. First of all, there were the commercial convoys which used to ply between Asia, and Eastern and Northern Europe by the Caspian Sea and through Constantinople. Perhaps, by that route, news of the Muslims had reached Scandinavia.
Secondly, the Crusaders' long occupation of some land between Syria, Egypt and other Islamic countries. Thirdly, the rise of Islamic states in Andalusia and Sicily and other countries, and the spread of the Arabic language there.
Arabic poems were linked with names of some gifted poets of Europe who lived in the fourteenth century and after. Their connection with Arab culture cannot be doubted or denied. We mention in particular Boccacio, Dante and Patrarch the Italians, the English poet Chaucer, and the Spanish Cervantes, who had the credit of revitalizing the ancient arts of those countries.
In 1349 Boccacio wrote his ‘Decameron’ in which he adopted the pattern of ‘Arabian Nights’ or ‘One thousand and one nights’ which was then in circulation in Egypt and Syria. He compiled one hundred stories on the lines of ‘One thousand and one Nights’, and ascribed them to seven ladies and three men who had fled from the town and took refuge in the suburbs for fear of being overtaken by plague. Each was called upon to narrate a story every morning to pass the time. These stories spread all over Europe. Shakespeare derived from them the subject of his comedy ‘ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL’; similarly Lessing, the German poet, derived NATHAN THE WISE’.
In English Poetry, Chaucer was the greatest plagiarist in his age. After he returned from Italy, he compiled his Canterbury tales on the lines followed by Boccacio in his (Decameron), of which one is the story of (the Kinght) which was borrowed from ‘One thousand and one Nights’. He began his tale with the description of a court belonging to one of the Khans of the Tartars or Moguls. The Western Poets continued spinning their stories on those lines until Longfellow author of the bock (Tales of Khan at the turning of the Road’.
Perhaps Dante's connection with Arab culture is more pronounced than Bocaccio's and Chaucer's. He lived in Sicily during the reign of King Frederick II who was given to the study of Arabic references on Islamic culture.
Dante and the King used to debate Aristotel's School. Some of those debates were taken from Arabic sources and were written in manuscripts which are still kept in the library of Sir Thomas Bodley in Oxford. More than one Orientalist has noticed the close similarity between the description of Paradise by ‘Mohiuddin Ibn Arabi’ and in Dante's ‘Divine Comedy’. Dante knew much about the Prophet Muhammad, and must have read the chapter about The Night Journey, the Prophet's trip across the seven heavens. He also might have read the ‘Message of Absolution’ by Abu El-Ala. From all those readings he derived his Journey To The Next World as described in ‘The Divine Comedy’. Professor Asin Palacios, a Spanish Scholar devoted to Arab Studies, is an authority on derivation by Westerners
Petrarch lived during the age of Arab culture in France and Italy. He learnt at the Universities of Montpellier and Paris, which where founded by disciples of the Arabs that had graduated from the Andalusia Universities. Cervantes lived in Algeria for some years and wrote his ‘Don Quixote’. Those who read ‘Don Quixote’ will never doubt the wide-reading of Cervantes in Arabic and his borrowing of Arabic sayings and proverbs which are still current among the Arabs. Prescott, a wide-read scholar in Spanish history, affirms that the comedy of ‘Don Quixote’ is wholly Andalusian in its core.
But the influence, which surpasses the effects of all those individual borrowings and derivations, is that comprehensive one which had had the credit of reviving modern European languages and promoting them to the ranks of literature and science, after they had been ignored by scientists, and scholars, whose literary and scientific works used to be written in Latin and Greek. Authorship of those work was restricted to theologians and their life, who arrogated learning to themselves alone to the exclusion of the masses of the people.
The adoption of Arabic as a means of education resulted in the neglect of Latin and Greek, and revival of the Popular language and the leanings of poetry rhetorics and science from sources other than priests and monks who were devoted to theology. Dozy quotes in his book, ‘Andalusian Islam’, the message of the Spanish writer Al-Farro, who was greatly embittered at the neglect of Latin and Greek and the enthusiasm for learning the Muslim language. Al-Farm said, ‘Our intellectual class have been transported by the charm of the Arabic language, and have consequently neglected Latin and written solely in the language of their conquerors’. Another more patriotic contemporary was embittered at that state of things and wrote. ‘My Christian brothers are enchanted by the Arabs' poems and narrative. They therefore study the works written by the Muslim Philosophers and Scholars. They learn, not to rebut and refute, but to imitate the style of classical Arabic. Who else other than theologians that read interpretations of the Gospel and Bible? Who reads these days the testaments and prophets' scriptures? Alas, the rising generation of intelligent Christians master no other literature and language than Arabic. They voraciously read Arabic books and heap up stocks of these books in their libraries at the highest prices. They chant everywhere the praises of the Arabic treasures, whereas they refuse to hear of Christian works when they are mentioned. They allege that Christian works are worthless and do not deserve to be given attention. How sad The Christians have forgotten their language. You seldom find one among a thousand Christians who writes to a friend in Christian language. As to Arabic, how innumerable are those who can give its best expression and excel the Arabs themselves in the composition of poems.
Dante said that the Italian poetry had been born in Sicily, that poems were greatly composed in vernacular in Provence where the Latin peoples of the South met. Wandering poets spread from that territory. They were known by the name ‘Troubador’. The Europeans derived that name from the original word ‘Trobar’, which Orientalists believe to be taken from Arabic word ‘Tarab or Tarob’ meaning ecstasy). The name of their poem ‘tenson’ is derived from the Arabic word ‘Tanazo’ meaning (competition) They used to compete with each other in the composition of poems wherein they boasted of their glories and made pretensions as today's glib tongued Bedouins do. It is noticeable that there is close similarity between the meters of their poems and those of Andalusiverses. Verse had appeared before them; it was sung by singers at homes and in fairs. In the European poems of North Andalusia, there have been found Arabic words and reference to customs that had existed among Muslims alone, namely allotment of the fifth of cattle to the ruling Prince.
The relationship between Arabic Literature rather Islamic Literature as a whole and Modern European Literature has continued since the 17th century. Suffice it as an evidence of the influence of Islamicliterature on European literature that we scarcely find a man of letters whose poetry and prose is devoid of an Islamic hero or anecdote. Of these literary people are Shakespeare, Addison, Byron, Southey, Coleridge, Shelley from England; Goethe, Herder, Lessing, Henine from Germany, Voltaire, Montesquieu, Hugo and La Fontaine from France. La Fontaine said that he had spun his fables on the lines of ‘Kalila and Demna’ which was introduced to the Europeans by the Muslims.
The European story was influenced during its rise by the technique of the Arabic novel of the Middle Ages namely, the ballad, epic, adventures of knights for romance and glory, etc. Some European critics believe that Gulliver's Traveis by Swift, and Robinson Crusoe by Defoe are indebted to Arabian Nights and ‘Message from Hai Ben Yakzan’ which was written by the philosopher Ibn Tofail. The ‘Arabian Nights’ exerted a stronger influence after its translation at the beginning of the 12th century, that had surpassed all effects it had by reputation before the publication of its translation. That was paralleled by the Translation of similar literary works. This tendency to turn to the East become as familiar in literature as it was in politics and colonization.
The School of Romantic chivalry of Medieval Europe is the offshoot of the chivalrous life of the Arab and Muslim conquerors who had introduced it to the West. This life prevailed in the West as a result of the practical lead the Arab and Muslim conquerors had inevitably taken. ‘Abanese’ the Spanish writer believes, as mentioned in another part of this book - that Europe had not known knighthood, its, arts and enthusiastic drive before the arrival of Arabs in Andalusia, and the spread of their knights and heroes in the Southern regions. The belief of Abanese had much evidence to support it. The strongest evidences endorsing it is that a new military pattern which was not known to the heroes of Roman and Greek battles before, the burning love which had no match in the erotic poetry of the Northern and Southern peoples, the chivalrous edification of the sweetheart in the same way as that followed by Muslim ascetics who combine worship with chanting the grace of love. Although the love poetry did not rise in European literature to that plane.
The Spanish and Portuguese people drew from the Arabs quite a number of Arabic words that could make up a fairly big glossary. However it is not a question of compiling a glossary of words; what counts is the currency of these new words as an instrument in social life and expressing one's purpose and intent. However these words were not assimilated in the languages until their instrumentality in catering for living, and thinking had been established. Hence, much more credit must go to the sources of its inscription and orientation than to those who copied and inculcated them.
There are two arts which unfortunately had no great share in Arab Civilization, i.e. acting and the plastic arts forms, painting and sculpture.
Like all other Eastern and Western peoples in ancient history, the Arabs did not know much about acting and the plastic arts. These two arts were not much known to civilized peoples. It follows that they were utterly unknown to uncivilized Bedouins.
In Greece, acting began with religious rituals during Dionysus ceremonies. It was limited in its initial stage, to dancing and singing. Then one more actor was added to fill up the time between dancing and singing by doing some acts and singing some hymns. The more actors were successively added, and acts were accordingly increased in one show. This development ended in the form of the theatrical play, as laid down by the ancient Greeks.
Nations, whose primary religious cults had no such rituals did not have the chance to develop the art of acting on these lines. Arab society might have had other reasons than those of worship, which blocked the development of acting on social grounds. Acting is an art which is closely connected with social life. Acting could not be conceived in a society which has not a multitude of social aspects which differ with the variety of work, trades, tastes and classes of the people. Acting from the social standpoint is based on response between individuals and families as and when their relationships are multiplied, and their tastes and inclinations are variegated. Bedouin society did not have a wide scope for this kind of multi form response between family and family, and individual and individual. They well reflected their social life, whether Bedouin or urban in the ballads, songs chivalrous sports, debates and boasting.
As regards the Arabs' lack of Plastic Arts, many unconvincing reasons were given. Amongst these reasons are the allegation that the Arabs lacked in sensitivity, or that their sensations were too weak to be reflected by representation or figuration.
It was alleged that the Plastic Arts had not greatly advanced under the Arabs in view of religious factors. But those hostile to Semitic intuition retorted by alleging that banning of pictures and statues was a result of the limited range of permissible and exhaustion of sensibility, and was not the basic reason for the Arabs' abandonment of picture-drawing and sculpture.
It was said : ‘In view of the lack of sympathy between the Arab and the animal, he did not represent creatures and paint them on buildings and paper as did the ancient Easterners’.
But the fact, which is forgotten by those who make these allegations, is that other peoples do not have closer and more generous sympathy with living creatures than that between the Arab and his steed, or she-camel, hounds, the deer, gazelle, fowl and other animals. A Bedouin poet seldom composed a poem which did not begin with the description of his beautiful love, or his steed and she-camel. No poets of other ancient nationalities likened the beauty of lovers and beauties to that of deer and gazelles as does the ancient Arab poets and their followers. This is without doubt a piercing sensitivity which found its way to self-expression by means of one of those arts within reach of the sons of the Desert. Portrayal is not the sole means of reflecting one's sensations, particularly in a Bedouin environment, which was short of all means of portrayal.
Now that we are at the outset of discussing the taboo on pictures, it is worth mentioning that taboo was observed by many people in Asia Minor. It was vigorously advocated by a large number of the followers of the Eastern Roman Church, who were called ‘Iconoclast’. Their call in the 7th century was a forerunner of the separation of the Eastern Church from the Western Church. However, the Western Church had after separation some staunch followers of those taboos. Had not the temples sponsored the arts of sculpture and painting it would have been uncertain that the social requirements of the European nations could have satisfied the needs of those two arts and supplied them with talented sculptors and painters.
In this connection, it may be said that the Arabs differed from the Europeans in the evolution of the arts of sculpture and painting just as the plan of the mosque differs from that of the church suggested by their respective cults.
There was no place in Islam for mediators between Allah and Man. It also had no place for the mystery of priesthood and its channel and the embodiment of Allah and saints. Furthermore, it is inconceivable in Islam that it sponsors those arts which cater for the decoration of the temple with paintings and statues. In effect there is no better incentive for the promotion of arts than the sponsorship of temples and the zeal for cults. Both greatly contributed to the promotion of architecture among Muslims in the same way as glorification of saints had contributed to the promotion of sculpture and painting among the Europeans.
The Mosque did not embrace paintings and statues, and consequently Islamic civilization had no wide scope for them as the European civilization has had.
But that did not hamper the rise of beautiful buildings and splendid domes, which were the bases for Arabesque architecture. Arabesque architecture can stand the comparison with the best arts of building in the past and at present.
The intuition of the Arabs - rather of the Easterners - had a particular trait which implied the independence of their style from the patterns from which the Arabs drew the art of building.
It is a mistake to state for instance - that the Byzantine style was the basis of that school which adopted that pattern of building in the East, because the Byzantine style was a characteristic trait of the East which distinguished it from the European styles such as the Gothic and Romanesque. Had there not been that suggestive trait of the East, there would not have been that distinction between the style of Byzantine architecture and that of the Germans or Italians.
It is undoubted that the Arabs relied in architecture on the arts of building of their predecessors such as the Persian, Romans and Egyptians. They recruited some Copts and Armenian masons in building many big buildings. Doubtless, the building hands were only the expression of the Arab mind, which could not be confused with any other. Who could ever contemplate the picture of an Arabian palace and isolate it from the elegance of the tall palm-tree, the briskness of the slim horse, the palanquin of the sacred wife, and the alternation of life between the bleak space and the shady place. And who could ever see those arches and windows and fail to connect them at one time with the hoof and another time with the padded foot.
Whoever reads the similes and falls under the moving charm of rhythm in Arabic poetry and fails to recognize the mental source of its inspiration, harmony and counterpoise, as well as the squares that are laid opposite to each other as had figured in the first holy building which the Arab pilgrim had visited, namely, the holy Ka'ba.
Arabism was undoubtedly stamped on the harmonious style of building. No one ever sees an Arab building and mistakes it for European or Chinese or Persian one, although there is a similarity of styles and provincial traits.
We believe that this distinct style of the Arabs prevented its borrowing by the European nations which were connected with the Islamic civilization. This is due to the fact that Arab styles were characteristic of either the mosques or the regions, and both could not be drawn into the European art in view of the difference of climate, cults and religious rituals.
However, the Europeans borrowed as much as they could from the Arabic styles of architecture in building castles, palaces, and other buildings which have no relation with cults and religious rituals.
During the reign of Queen Elizabeth and thereafter, engravings spread in England. They were known by the ‘Arabesque decorations’. The English built their castles after the Crusades on lines very closely similar to the Arab styles; they doubled the walls, built high towers between them, planned central fortifications and built right angled, but inclined gates, which could block the use of the gate by the enemy and bar him from firing his missiles into the courtyard. They also borrowed from the Oriental Church, which had greatly been influenced by the Arab style, many models of angles and round towers which were unknown to Western Church-builders the Crusades.
There is no stronger evidence of the artistic influence of the Arabs on the Europeans than the way the latter copied their works without understanding their significance. `There were inscriptional characters which goldsmiths copied without being able to read them. They copied them as they were because they keen on reproducing the Arab decorations and ornaments which they had seen on textiles, embossed metallic work and woodwork. In his book ‘Legacy of Islam’, Professor Thomas Arnold said that a cross that probably dates back to the 9th century, was found in Ireland. The verse ‘In the name of God’ was inscribed on a piece of glass inside the cross. The character were Kufic. In Florence, a curious scene was seen during the crowning ceremony of the Blessed Virgin. Angels were seen holding in their hands scrolls carved out in Arabic character. Oriental figures were introduced in European pictures, drawings and tapestries; they exerted a great influence in the orientation of the European art or drawing its renaissance in the Middle Ages.
However, the Arabs did not utterly renounce portraits in pre-Islamic and Islamic days. Their poesy was fraught with descriptions of dummies, puppets, effigies, buildings, urns and utensils, ornaments, royal and princely palaces. The marble dummy was referred to in this verse "A dummy of marble was built high of bricks".
The famous scholar and researcher, the late Ahmad Taimour Pasha, brought forward in his valuable book on portrayal among the Arabs, hundreds of verses which imply that painting and sculpture were widespread among the Arabs. These two arts were used in the decoration of buildings, golden ornaments, in the dying of textiles manufactured by Muslims. He gave the names of many Arab portrayers who were addicted to the carving of drawings and sculpturing of metallic and stone statues.
We cannot dedicate more space in this chapter for evidence and examples of portraits and portrayers in Arab civilization. We are only interested in pointing out that the Arabs were not alone in following behind the ancient advanced nations in the two arts of painting and sculpture and that they were not lacking in the relevant artistic sense and vital emotions. Their artistic taste remained a long time a pattern for the Europeans which they adopted in building palaces, houses, and markets. It was not restricted to the circles of art and its principles.
Arab music is distinctly different from modern European music, that is European music from the 18th century onwards.
But this difference does not stem from basic disparity between the Arab and European natures, as has occurred to some scholars in writing on racial and ethnological relationship.
There is the same disparity between the ancient European music, and the modern European music in its last evolutionary stage. Greek and Roman music was based on sentimental songs or on the tunes that accompanied the dances and songs. It was composed rather for delight than self-expression. European melodies before the 18th century were lyrical; they were not tunes coordinated in the system known by the modern term harmony.
The modern European is not naturally delighted by harmonic music without being beforehand learned in its arts. If the tunes multiply, the tones vary and the distance between the repetitive rhythms grows longer, the European listener will find himself lost, and wearied in trying to combine it and its divisions. He must be conversant with the harmony of sound and the scale of tones so that he may relish that complex music and be delighted at listening to it, in the same way as an individual get delighted by aesthetics. He may be well learned in the art of refined music, yet he will be repelled when he hears a new musical scale of sounds. He needs to study it for a while until he likes it. In this connection, Professor Douglas Moore, professor of music at Columbia University, says in his book (From hymn to contemporary music)
The listener, accustomed to listening to simple styles of music, will be justly disappointed if he feels he is soon lost when listening to a sympathy. He should not be disappointed and remain reassured, because what agrees with him, agrees with others, however much versed and experienced he may be. Our capacity for concentrated listening is too much limited to allow for any type of listening based on perfect pitch. Even professional musicians prefer to listen to familiar music, rather than to listen to new tunes, because they spend less effort in grasping it. However, persistent practice and patient understanding of new tunes will speedily render the listener familiar with them, and consequently he can grasp quite easily their lofty significance, and refined melody.
The innovations in the modern European music of variation and composition, have estranged it from the Greek and Roman music in general. These innovations were not a new thing to European or human nature. They were a new acquisition of knowledge and devices after having made vast researches in thee science of sound, the arrangement of musical instruments, and the influence of liturgical music, then tunes of spiritual hymns and of philosophical contemplations into sensory music.
The difference between ancient music and modern music became greater when it expanded to include religious emotions and divine services. The listener used to listen to it in the niches of temples, when he was submitting himself to the Almighty, and pondering on the mystery of the universe. If music has expanded to include such loftier expressions, also must have scope for the insertion of deeply wise sayings, ascetic corollaries, and intuitional airs which have pervaded Europe after the evanescence of the religious impact, in consequence of reformation revolts. It is therefore not strange that home-countries of church music are the sponsors of harmonics in music, or the home-countries of the famous musicians who rose to the peak of excellence in the composition of operas, symphonies and other compositional arts. These countries are most probably Spain, Italy, Austria, Germany and Russia which was renowned for its choirs. In this connection it is noticeable that the regions in which the impact of the church disappeared all at once, namely Lutheran Germany, outnumbered in great musicians all other regions in which the ancient and modern have combined.
However, relationship between the Arabs and the evolution of European music on that line has not been severed.
This is due to the fact that Andalusia had been receiving tunes composed by the Arabs. These tunes embraced sensuous tunes admixed with liturgical music. They lasted for several generations after the decline of the Arab State. The Spanish had a specific divine dance sponsored by the Church; that dance combined features of archaic and modern music
It is an established fact that Europeans had learnt the art of music from Arab professors in Andalusia, and that they had taken down the names of some musical instruments from the Arabs and introduced them into their European languages subsequent to alight inflections. Such words are the Lute from the Arabic world ‘Al-Cud’; ‘Naker’ from the Arabic word (Nakara’; ‘Cle) (the musical key) from ‘Ekled’, and ‘Rebec’ from the Arabic word ‘Rebeba’ Europe artists continued to put on dresses similar to the Arab singers, although circumstances had changed. Arab singers in Morocco used to perform in their best. Cantatrices used to release their hair, color their cheeks and apply to their eyelids.
However, some European experts in Arab music, such as Professor Farmer, believe that the Arabs had anticipated the Europeans in evolving a kind of ‘harmonics’ which they call ‘Composer’. By it they mean various intonations of one single tune at one time, which is different from today's harmonics. However it was a step towards it.
Historians are unanimously agreed that European scholars studied and handed Arab treatises on theoretical music. Although they had translated a modicum of those treaties, hundreds of them joined the schools of Carthage and other cities in quest of science, which included theoretical music. Good knowledge of the Arabic language was a pre-condition for any Christian Spaniard. The students at Oxford University of England used to jeer at ‘Roger Bacon’, the famous scholar, whenever he made a mistake in the Latin translation of Arabic, because they could look up the correct texts.
Some modern European critics imagine that the Arabs' voice was not up to the standard of grandeur and loftiness. They draw this conclusion from what they hear about Bedouin outcries at fairs and market places which sounded shrill and frail. These European critics could have discovered their mistake, had they born in mind the songs of camel-driver in the desert, which is in fact the ancient type of Arab singing. Such singing provided a wide scope for all kinds of voices which resounded all over the desert and rose to the highest pitches.
At any rate, there is no basic difference of scales between Arab and European music. Yet the Arab musician who holds stubbornly fast to the `familiars' highly esteems what is called ‘quarter-tones’, and considers it a basically distinguishing mark between Oriental and European tunes. However, the observance of this ‘quarter tones’ is not a condition for listening by an Arab, war does its denial set a condition for listening by an European.
The modern musician Hans Barth manufactured a piano which has the quarter-tone; Ivan Wischnegradsky wrote a book on the quarter-tone and harmonics. Alois Haba composed an opera and tunes on the basis of the quarter-tone observed in Arabic songs Julian Carello made a guitar on that basis. John Appleby played on that guitar the tune of a theme that revolved around a talk by Socrates. Nicolas Ramsky Korsakof formed, some twenty years ago, in Leningrad a group for the study of the ‘quarter-tone’
Apart from these, there are the musicians who introduced Arabic tunes in their theatrical and non-theatrical melodies such as Rubenstein, Philican David and Saint Saens, and drew intonation closer to harmony.
It this basis has prevailed in Europe and been observed in the construction of the musical instruments and the composition of the tunes, then it is a new trace of the Arabs' art adding to their old heritage.
Philosophy and Religion
In the 19th Century the Europeans believed that the Eastern nations acquired learning only for its utility. It was also believed that, unlike the ancient Greeks, the Easterners did not learn for the sake of learning or for mental recreation.
Those who held this notion argued that the Egyptians, the Babylonians, the Persian and the Indians know certain sciences which served them as industries. They utilized them in construction, agriculture and the treatment of human and animal ailments. They held that only the Greeks knew sciences as sciences and philosophy as philosophy. The Greeks were interested in sciences for the sake of intellectual discussion and mere theoretical contemplation. They did not ink the sciences with any idea of utility or a means of livelihood.
This notion is gaining currency among the Europeans without anyone caring to debate it or judge of its merits. They do not care to debate the matter because the concept itself satisfies their vanity and serves their purpose at one and the same time. They feel superior to the Easterners as they believe they possess the most sublime human characteristics. In addition to this, the notion serves their purpose because, in an age of colonialism and exploitation, it helps to justify their colonizing the East and its exploitation An interesting point about the whole affair is that it has no acceptable philosophical or scientific basis and cannot be regarded as free from traces of vested interest. How can the logical mind given to philosophical observation accept that the nature of the Greek mind differed from the basic constructions of the mind in other human races of the world. Logic is unable to accept such an unjust ruling which has no argument to advance in its support.
The fact is that there is absolutely no difference in the basic nature of the human mind of the Greeks and that of the human races of the East which the Europeans mention. Some degree of difference between the two can be admitted as regards local conditions, but that would apply to the Greeks as well as to the Egyptians, the Babylonians, the Arabs and the Indians.
The Greeks could engage themselves in philosophical discussions at a certain period of history due to a reason known to all; they enjoyed freedom for such intellectual deliberation while the ancient Eastern nations were deprived of it. The Greeks did not enjoy this freedom as a result of any inherent quality in their minds as suggested by the exponents of the above hastily-formed view. There were no dominating kings and no influential clergy in Greece and that helped the country to flourish and develop. Had such powerful kingdoms and influential clergy as that of Egypt and Babylon existed, the Greeks would have behaved in matters of religion and divinity exactly as did the Egyptians and the Babylonians.
Big rivers in countries give rise to firmly established kingdoms with an influential clergy which make discussions of the origin of things and the facts of creation their own prerogative. The priests, in such cases, consider learning as their birthright which none could usurp because such an act was tantamount to violation of the state law and the prerogative of the priesthood. With the passing of time, these orders of priesthood attained greater power and their appeal became diversified, as they clothed their knowledge with a shroud of secrecy and magic. This makes all intellectual pursuits drift away gradually towards traditions and memory, rather than flourishing in an atmosphere of freedom.
The Greeks would never have dared to indulge in unrestricted open and public discussions of the problems of creation, the Creator, and the nature of the universe had their country known the powerful kingdoms and influential clergy which flourished elsewhere.
The Europeans mere experience later, like the Easterners, an influential clergy which dominated the educational field and intellectual world with all its problems and religious truths, the secrets of nature and the laws of the universe. The result was that philosophy and intellectual pursuits were banned in the Middle Ages. None dared to indulge in these discussions except with the permission of the clergy and within certain limits. These restrictions were imposed by the European clergy even before it was as rooted as was the priesthood in Egypt and Babylon. In fact, the European churchmen could trace their history back only to some tens of hundreds of year, while the ancient institutions of priesthood traced their history back to thousands of years.
Moreover, the Greeks could begin their discussions of the secrets of divinity and nature only after getting a clue from the ancient clergy-ridden nations which worshipped the Great Creator and knew religion long before the Europeans. It was a time when the Europeans knew nothing about the power of the Creator. They did not know that this power was an attribute of the God of All the Universe as it was understood by the monotheists or polytheists.
There lived in Greece, and in the island of Crete, people belonging to Greek ancestry who lived together but had different dialects and claimed their lineage from different tribes. Excavations show that these people flourished seventeen centuries before Christ at the most conservative assessment. They had no philosophy and no sage or philosopher lived among them in all those centuries. Their philosophers did flourish on the Asian coasts in the islands nearby, after their coming into contact with the Eastern nations which had deep-rooted civilizations. No philosophers could have appeared there had the beliefs of the Easterners and their evaluation of human thought, the origin of existence and the causes of things not enlightened the minds of the Greeks. Moreover, it is not true to say that the Greeks studied philosophical theory when they began their study of the realities of things. Pythagoras mixed religion with philosophy and supervised underground societies which aspired to seize power. Xenphanes, on the other hand, preached and condemned polytheism. Pythagoras also believed, as did the Indians, in metempsychosis, duality of good and bad, light and darkness and the cycles of life and time. He contended that man cannot obtain salvation from the cycle of nature to which he is tied except by means of spirituality renunciation and sincerity in the pursuit of knowledge. He was a vegetarian and followed the lines of the Brahmins. Empedocles followed Pythagoras in most of his observations and contentions. Plato- too had parts of Pythagoras' philosophy included in his own school of thought.
Early Greek philosophy had an Eastern tinge. The Asian philosophers were deeply interested in astronomy and mathematics and Pythagoras, Xenphanes and their disciples in religion. Again we find that the number seven was given to the previous seven sages among whom were Thalis and Solon. Astronomy flourished in Babylon and Egypt thousands of years before the Greeks. Similarly, the secret religious societies moved from the old clergy-dominated lands to Asia Minor and regions beyond. From this it appears that the Greeks were not the originators of organized philosophical studies or that the instinct for them was theirs all through the ages.
All the Eastern sources, including the Old Testament and the sayings of the Egyptians and Babylonians are found in the oldest of the schools of Greek thought, namely Thalis' philosophy, the ideals of which are found in all philosophies developed later.
In Al-Shahrastani's view, the universe has a Creator Whose substance and essence cannot be grasped by any mind. A human mind can realize only the demonstrations of that substance. The Creator's name is unknown, let alone His identity .
We can only know Him through His various acts and creation. Al-Shahrastani adds that the first element created was water which, to him, was capable of adopting any shape. Out of it were created all objects, the sky, the earth and whatever was in between them. Water is the cause of all creation as well as the elements of all bodies. He mentioned that the frigidity of water produced the earth. Air came into being by the evaporation of water. From it also rose flame and from smoke and vapor heavens were created. From ignition resulting from ether the stars were produced.
Al-Shahrastani says that the first chapter of the Old Testament mentions that creation started with a substance created by Allah. One majestic look towards that substance melted, its parts, from which water was produced. From water came forth vapor like smoke creating the skies. Foam appeared on the surface of water from which the earth was created, held in position by mountains. Thalis of Miletus had acquired his philosophy from this holy light, Al-Shahrastani concluded.
The Greeks' interest in science, as science, was like that of all other nations and races. It is to be noted that the Greeks named engineering the science of measuring the earth. It was after the advances made by engineering and its application which had nothing to do with the land survey, the division of pastures and agricultural land, that such a name was given. This probably reveals the source from which the Greeks borrowed their science of engineering. In point of fact, the Egyptians had to re-survey the land after every flood, while the Greeks did not have to carry out an annual survey of re-demarcation of land.
The clergy was weak in Greek lands while it was strong in the East and that made all the difference in the way the sciences were studied there. When the Greeks came to study and do research they felt absolutely free from all restrictions imposed by the state or religion. This made their mission easy. This was due to particular circumstances and not to any inherent difference in the construction of their respective mental qualities or the capacity to think.
Nothing could be more difficult than to prove the pure Greek ancestry of all philosophers who lived all over Asia Minor, Greece, the Islands, Sicily, Alexandria and Thrace since they belonged to different non-Greek races.
Moreover, Greek philosophy had no force and drive sufficient to overcome obstacles or to survive restrictions. Only one such restriction which the Eastern nations suffered and which, in case of the Greeks, was quite weak successfully demolished the centuries-old cultural heritage of the Greeks. One collision with the Macedonians and the other with the Romans put an end to the Greek philosophy. The Greeks have been living in their country ever since without producing a single philosopher as yet.
The restrictions and hurdles which were inherent in the nature of the states which thrived in Eastern countries produced their reaction. It is the same reaction which caused Greece to live for centuries in inaction and obscurity. The principles of construction which do not accept any philosophical or scientific argument need no further proof. The Semites, and the non-Semitic Persians and Indians, faced peculiar circumstances and passed through a peculiar history. The Greeks and Europeans suffered the same restrictions for ages under the rule of kings and clergy. As a result, the latter were more disheartened in their intellectual pursuits than all of the Eastern nations put together. In this respect, it should be enough to mention the European Inquisition Courts and their penalizing by burning and deprivation.
The Arabs had no powerful state the like of which existed in Mesopotamia or on the banks of the Nile. They were nomads who roamed in search of pastures and water. Theirs was the life of the Bedouins who moved annually in caravans to trade in both winter and summer. In order to live, they had to be prepared at all times for defense and to attack relentlessly. Naturally, no nation, Semitic or non-Semitic, obliged to lead such a troubled life could find time to study philosophy and other theories; this was possible only in peace and stability.
It is most unfair and unpraiseworthy on the part of intellectuals to advance the theory that the Arab mind was incapable of studying philosophy. To refute this idea Al-Farabi and Avicenna can be given as examples. According to the common belief, they were not of Arab or Semitic origin. This argument is given as if the Persians had a special philosophy of their own or as if they had, like the Arabs, a disadvantage in studying philosophy during ages of civilization.
The sound view, acceptable to logic and science alike is that the obstacles to the flourishing of philosophical learning in all countries, races and people are the same. Had the Greeks faced circumstances peculiar to the Arabs they would have known no philosophy. Similarly, the Arabs, had they lived like the Greeks, would have studied more philosophy and sciences.
Yaqub Al-Kindi was a pure Arab. No trace of a foreign blood is known in his case. All the Andalusian philosophers were Arabs too. They were not Persians or Europeans, their Arab ancestry was not also of the Greek type to which the people of Thrace, the Archipelago Islands, Crete, Sicily, Asia Minor and the Greek communities in Tyres, Sidon and the Vally of the Nile belonged.
The Andalusians are the most appropriate of Muslim philosophers who must be referred to when talk about the introduction of philosophical learning and logical discussion on the Europeans. The Eastern philosophers, like Al-Farabi and Avicenna and others were introduced to the Europeans only through their Andalusian counterpart. The credit for introducing the Eastern philosophers to the European students goes directly to Ibn-Bajjah. Ibn-Tufayl, Averroes, Ibn-Zuhr (Avenzoar) and others, who adopted philosophy and practiced medicine as their subjects, or engaged themselves only in medicine. Previous to these learning was limited to a privileged class or to those few who devoted their time entirely to science and the arts.
The Europeans began to know about philosophy of Avicenna before they heard of the Andalusian philosophers. It was Raymond, Archbishop of Toledo, who ordered translation into Latin of some of Avicenna's books. This occurred before the middle of the 12th Century A.D. That was not the first time that the intellectuals of Europe studied Arab culture in the Andalusian universities. Before the end of the 15th Century, there was a man who was so well versed in Arab culture that he was considered by his contemporaries a magician. This man was Priest Gerbert who became known when he ascended the papacy in 999 as Sylvester the Second.
The Andalusian philosopher were very generous in dispensing knowledge. The Christian jurists hated the most renowned of them, Aboul Walid Ibn Rushd, had accused him of being a materialist and a disbeliever in the immortality of the individual soul. But these jurists were very happy with Ibn Bajjah and Ibn Thfayl who believed in the theory of illumination and knowledge which were derived from meditation and spirituality. The teachings of these two moderate philosophers influenced the views of Thomas Aquinas and Albert the Great. Albert the Great's writings on "knowledge", particularly, show the influence of Avicenna. Similarly, Averroes' writings influenced the European schools of philosophy for centuries. This was at a time Averroes' books had already been banned and the ban itself was universally proclaimed throughout the Christian world. Averroes continued to be held in high esteem even after his death by many centuries by thinkers and philosophers up to the renaissance of modern philosophy. It is interesting to mention that the German philosopher Friedrich Ueberweg had courage to absolve Averroes of the indictment of being a heretic passed by some Muslim fanatic jurists. Averroes had said that the Quran had been revealed in seven, seventy or seven hundred interpretations. While the commoners understand no other meaning of the Quran except the general interpretation, the intellectuals show a link between the Quran and the secrets of philosophy and its difficult problems.
It is also considered by Europeans and Easterners that the ascetic philosopher Mohiuddin Ibn Arabi had greatly influenced the minds of the ascetics and priests of the Christian jurists who lived after his death. Ibn Arabi lived in Marsiah before the end of the 12th Century A.D. He stutheology, different theories of philosophy, mystic spirituality and pantheism. He was dear to the Christians because he propagated the oneness of all religions as well as the realities of existence. He said ‘Men have different beliefs about God but I believe in all of them’ He also said ‘I previously hated everyone who confessed a religion foreign to me, but now I have become a cosmopolitan. I believe in the Quran and Ka'ba and, similarly, in the idols and the Old Testament. My faith is love’.
According to the Spanish scholar, Professor Asin Palacios, Dante's mystic leanings and his description of the unseen world were taken from Mohiuddin without much alteration
It is known that the first of the Western ascetic philosophers, Johannes Eckhart, of Germany, lived after the death of Ibn Arabi and studied in the University of Paris which depended on the Andalusian heritage in respect of philosophy and sciences. Eckhart, like Ibn Arabi, says that Allah is the Ultimate Existence and that there is no other existence apart from Him. He also says that the Divine Reality expresses itself in all things particularly the human spirit which has to gain contact with Allah through spirituality, knowledge and prayer. He adds that the relation of spirit with Allah is more definite than the relation between the mater and the body.
This philosophy is clearly visible in Spinoza's school. Spinoza lived in Holland and belonged to the Portuguese Jews who were forced to embrace Christianity. His views about self, attributes, the vision of Allah seen through His creatures and men's acquiring of real knowledge through intuition, were copies of the views of the Muslim philosophers with some slight alteration.
If it could be said that Eckhart and Spinoza borrowed some of these beliefs and views from Alexandria Platonism directly, there will be no doubt that the Spanish mystic philosopher Raymunds Lullus borrowed the views of Ibn Arabi, particularly those included in his book ‘Asmaullah Al-Hosna’ (The Blessed Names of Allah). Raymundus Lullus was well-versed in Arabic. He was born one hundred years after the death of Ibn Arabi, He enumerated one hundred names of Allah while since, at that time, Christianity know less than this number.
There is no link between the old philosophers of Muslim countries and those of today. Seldom does anyone of today's philosophers read the books of Andalusian philosophers and those of the Islamic East; what he studies is the original sources of ancient Greek philosophy. The philosophical views expressed by people like Al-Farabi, Al-Kindi, Avicenna, Al-Ghazali, Averroes and Ibn Thfayl are not totally foreign to the modern schools of thought. These views were discussed and studied by the eminent Muslim philosophers either briefly or in detail.
Those who, in ancient times, believed in matter and intellect held views about the phenomena and very Similar to those held by Kant. These facts are out of the reach of mind and thought. They can be realized only by active intellect which is the objective of morals, duties and thinking. By going deep we realize these unknown things through common intuition very much like the intuition of the mystics.
According to David Hume the occurrence of things in a particular order, either once or one thousand times, does not necessarily mean that the preceding thing is the cause of the following and its existence. The same view has been discussed in detail by Al-Ghazali in his book ‘Tahafut Al-Falasifah’. He said that the link between what is generally believed as a cause and caused is not necessary. Every two things have separate entity. If one of them is proved, this proof does necessarily include a proof for the other thing. Similarly, the denial of one thing does not apply to the other thing. The existence of one thing does not mean the existence of the other thing. Similarly, the non-existence of one thing is not the non-existence of the other. For example, irrigation and drinking, fullness of the stomach and eating, burning and contact with fire, light and sunrise, death and cutting off the throat, recovery and taking medicine, looseness of the bowels and use of purgatives, etc., Together with the phenomena in the field of medicine, astronomy, industries and professions. Here, the link between any two of them does not necessarily mean that each one the attendant requirements of purity and the avoidance of actions which violate the spirit of prayer. Similarly, the idea of the Hereafter as given in Islam as regards the prayers is more persuasive in the direction of performing virtuous acts than in any previous faith of them is connected with the other. Although it appears that there is a link between each two of the things mentioned above, yet each one can manifest itself separately. The stomach could be filled without eating and death can happen without cutting off the throat. A life can go on despite the severance of throat. Al-Ghazali dealt with this subject in three chapters which are considered the most precise of all the writings of the thinkers about the realities of causes.
The theory of taking private interest as a measure for reality has been discussed by Averroes in the concluding part of his book ‘Tahafutul Tahafut’ before Wilham James. Referring to laws, their essence and necessity, Averroes observed that all the people unanimously believe that the principles of work must be taken as a tradition. Because no proof could be given for the obligation to work unless there is some virtue which may be the outcome of certain moral and practical activity. The thinkers hold this view as regards the laws. It means that in every creed the behavior of the prophets and the law-makers is to be followed. Anyone of these essential laws which is capable of urging the people to act in a virtuous way is the most acceptable of all, so that those who adopt such a principle may be more virtuous than others following different principles. Prayers can be given as an example; there is no doubt that prayers deprecate evil deeds as stated in the Quran. The prayers as prescribed by Islam have the distinct quality of immunizing the people offering prayers from all evil. This is not the case with prayers in other religions. The Islamic law of prayer is unique due to various factors of the number of prayers, the timings, the psalms and all the attendant requirements of purity and the avoidance of actions which violate the spirit of prayer. Similarly, the idea of the Hereafter as given in Islam as regards the prayers is more persuasive in the direction of performing virtuous acts than in any previous faith.
Spinoza believes in the unity of matter and spirit. This is the same philosophy which has been explained by the Andalusian Ibn Jabirol in his book ‘Yanboul Hayat’. As a proof of his theory, Ibn Jabirol pointed out the unity of cause and effect in nature or in some of its parts, otherwise the mind will have no influence on the body nor the spirit on matter. A similar case of not very distant past is that the ancients believed in the link between time and space. Einstein, contemporary scientist, discloses that time is the fourth of the many dimensions of space.
The first phase of the idea of development is another similar case. Al-Farabi said concerning the views of the Utopians and while attempting to explain the ideas of the First Teacher ‘The existing things are so arranged that the most inferior of them preceded the better one and the cycle goes on until the best of all comes into existence. The most inferior is the first joint matter. The most inferior are the elements. The order of priority moves upwards from metal, plants, non-articulate animal and the articulate animal. Nothing is superior to the articulate animal’.
The thinkers who lived after Al-Farabi were more elaborate in their views about gradual evolution, they even referred to some similarity between man and monkey. Ibn Rhaldoun said ‘Look at the phenomenon of creation, Look how it has progressed from the metal stage to the plants and then to animals in a most spectacular process of evolution. The last horizon of the metal stage is linked with the first horizon of the plants, like the date- tree and vine, is linked with the first horizon of the animal stage like the snail and shell which have no other sense but touch only. The link between these creatures means that the horizon of them has wonderful capacity to become the first horizon of the following stage. The animal world got expanded into a number of varieties. In its process of gradual evolution, the animal world reached the stage of man capable of thought and contemplation. Monkeys have sense, they are rational but have no capacity to think and contemplate. The first horizon of mankind followed the monkey stage. This is the last conclusion which we could make’.
Descartes is supposed to be the father of modern European philosophy. But three of this most important theories were already discussed by Al-Ghazali and particularly by Avicenna. Al-Ghazali said that doubt was the first stage of certainty. Doubt in Carteism was a forerunner of positives. The first of these positives was the one which Descartes advanced to prove existence. In this respect, he says ‘Since I think. I am existing’. This is the same theory dealing with man left in the space explained by Avicenna while he was trying to prove ‘reality’, which meant the existence of the soul even if there were no external contacts. Avicenna further explains that if a human being is left in space with no member of his body coming in contact with any other thing in existence and no senses functioning, he will surely have a sense of himself or his existence. Next to that theory is the question of creatures and their need, after coming into existence, for Divine blessings to continue having life. They do not acquire the attributes of existence all at one time, but they get them in stages through the blessings of Allah. This is the theory of both Avicenna and Descartes without any differences between the two.
Those who maintain that Muslim philosophers copied the Greek philosophers word by word are mistaken. There were Muslim philosophers who thought independently; there were others who hesitated in toeing the Greek line. While studying the ancient works, most of them believed that those works were open to modification and further verification. They did not believe that what the ancient philosophers wrote had to be taken for granted in any case.
Al-Ghazali, for instance, was a master of logic. Of all the ancient philosophers and those who lived later he was the most capable man to dispute the arguments given by the Greeks. He had parallel arguments and sometimes his views on logical problems were more forceful and more lucid.
Avicenna is not in total agreement with the Peripatics, he has his own parallel logic which he named the ‘Oriental Logic’. He says, ‘We do not care if any of our observations go against theories propounded by the Greeks by way of carelessness or misunderstanding. Similarly, we do not care if our views go against the popular theories found in the books of second-rate philosophers of Peripatics who have the misconception that it is only they who enjoy Allah's blessing and nobody else’.
Al-Biruni has criticized Aristotle for his belief in the old philosopher's views and for his statement that the findings of past centuries in astronomy were an accomplished fact.
He also disputed Aristotle for saying that the oval and perpendicular figures require vacuum in going round and round; he did not like Aristotle's theory that the round figure needs no vacuum. Al-Biruni held this view as disputable. Avicenna approved Al-Biruni's criticism and pointed out to him the disadvantages suffered by the interpreters of the theory. In this respect, Avicenna quoted Themistius' recommendation contained in his book. ‘The Book of the Heavens’ that any philosopher's views must he taken at their best.
Similar contradictions are frequently found in the books of the philosophers, the mystics and the
theologists. Actually, the views of the eminent philosophers are not to be branded as reproduction of past views. Even Averroes cannot be an exception. He excelled all others in his appreciation of Aristotle. Averroes used to retouch the views of Aristotle while reproducing them.
This statement is open to one observation in which two contradictory views meet at the same mistake. Whoever maintains that the Muslims' borrowing from the Greeks, regardless of its amount, was an objectionable act will be taken as if he was against the whole process.
No nation is required to originate a culture of its own entirely different from all other cultures. Similarly there could be no objection to a nation's attempt to acquire learning when it becomes possible for her to do so. What is objectionable is that a nation may prove itself unworthy of keeping the flame of human culture burning after it has been passed on to her, generation after generation from the beginning of the human history. It is highly praiseworthy on the part of the Muslim philosophers that they have been very particular in quoting the name of each author for their theories. They were full of praise whenever they came across a theory which appealed to them. But the same could not be said about the Greeks. They ignored mentioning and giving the credit for the learning they acquired from early civilizations. Moreover, the study of philosophy was not restricted to the philosophers only in the Muslim world; all learned and semi-learned people had easy access to it. This gave rise to debates in assemblies attended by the elite. There were also other contests of matching wits; this is something unknown to the Greeks and their contemporaries in ancient times.
Philosophy, particularly mystic philosophy, was the only avenue in which modern thought expressed itself in the Christian world. It is also the same way through which European ideas and views expressed themselves through the ages.
One look at figures denoting the years in which the Christian message thrived and religious reform became successful will show the source of these views. These were the years when the attacks on the priests were at their highest. The same period also witnessed continuous slackening of restrictions on inmates of monasteries and marriage. Nothing of this kind ever appeared before Europe's contact with the Arab civilization, either in Andalusia or during the Crusade. All problems connected with rationalism or religion together with their attendant social issues lay dormant in Europe finding no opportunity to manifest themselves, or to discover any solution of the same.
With the perpetual contacts made between the Arab and European societies, and then between their minds and belief, a new mentality and a new learning to interpret things and to introduce reforms appeared. The European scholars sometimes propounded theories which were in agreement with the Arabs' and sometimes differed with them. But difference does not mean to ignore the original source and does not also obstruct formation of new thought.
Thomas Aquinas, the most exalted of all Christian divines in the middle ages, was born in 1225 and died in 1274. He wrote his books in a period when the views of the Andalusian and other Muslim Eastern philosophers were popularly known among the Christian monks and priests. The latter had not a single theory about Allah, the spirit, and the methods of approach to reality which had not been already discussed long before by Avicenna, Al-Ghazali and Averroes in particular. The differences between both sides were those inherent in Islam and Christianity themselves. The Muslims called Al-Ghazali (Hujjatul Islam) meaning ‘the Proof of Islam’. Dante, on the other hand, named Saint Thomas ‘The Glimpse of the Heavenly Light’. Both of them had the same task to perform. They disputed Aristotle's and Plato's theories and defeated the materialist philosophy's doubtful points to give the idea of divinity an upper hand. Only one comparison between the theories of the two sages will reveal to us who preceded the other and was more independent in his thinking. Despite the protests of Saint Thomas, the Christian priests, particularly the Franciscans, generally accepted the views of the Arab philosophers. The followers of those theories challenged openly the clear-cut ban issued by the Paris Divine Council in 1260 on the views. The ban outlawed belief in the theories of Averroes, particularly those dealing with the soul, the first human being oldness and newness.
The philosophical and mystic studies continuously had their impact on the clergy. It resulted in a powerful campaign against the priesthood. This campaign had its echo in literary circles where an Italian writer contributed to the success of the campaign. This writer owes much to the Arab culture since he wrote his book the Decameron on lines of One Thousand and One Nights and ridiculed the priesthood.
It was not yet the end of the 15th Century that the priesthood reached definite crosswords which led to two different schools of thought. The Trint 1545 Ecclesiastical Assembly issued decisions banning marriage for all priests of all ranks. But before that, Luther, the master mind of the Anglicans, married a Catholic priestess by way of protest and challenge. Luther knew more than anyone else the philosophy of the Middle Ages. He was professor of philosophy at the University of Wuttenburg.
He knew fairly well the discussions of the masters of divinity and logicians.
Luther translated the Old Testament into German .Latin had the sole monopoly of being the language of religion and sciences for hundreds of years; this monopoly was broken by the pressure to learn Arabic among those who previously learnt nothing but Latin and thought it obligatory to use their national languages. The urge to shift to Arabic from Latin was not widespread that some orthodox people complained against it. Those who complained feared the serious change which had overtaken their countrymen. Dozy's book on Muslim Spain discusses this change.
Professor Nicholson in his book ‘Legacy of Islam’ referred to the similarities between the theories of the Muslim mystics and the European Christian mystics like the German and the English Edward Carpenter who lived later. Nicholson has dealt nicely with the subject of the relation between Christian and the Islamic mysticism. If such a relation is proved it should cause no surprise. It has the testimony of history and logic. But it should be surprising if the same is denied by people knowing that the Arabs lived in Andalusia for centuries and that their lectures were attended by students of religious and secular learning there and that the Arab scholars books were studied by Christian scholars in monasteries and universities. Similarly, it is surprising if the relation between the Christian and the Muslim mystics were denied by people who knew that not a single sign of European renaissance was visible before the contact of the East with West.
The aforeasaid concept is based on exaggeration having two parallel points while each one of them is equally full of misstatements aiming at misguiding others. It is the height of injustice to say that the mysticism which the Europeans borrowed from the Arabs was foreign even to Arabs themselves and that the Arab mind had made no contribution towards its development - this is one point in question. The other is to maintain that Arab mysticism was purely Arab in its origin and that no other nation has any part to play in it. Both these points are equally false and are unacceptable. The aspirations of the human soul are shared equally by all human races; there is not a single nation of a group of people who are totally deprived of these aspirations. Similarly, there is not one single belief which could embody in itself all of those aspirations as compared with other religious beliefs.
Arab mysticism rubbed shoulders with the ancient Indian and Platonic mysticism in Alexandria. The Arabs did borrow certain theories and ideas; but while doing so they contributed many of their own in the same way. We do not seem to be in need of quoting historical background and proofs for the statement. The elements of Islamic mysticism found in the verses of the Holy Quran contain all the principles found, in toto, in Buddhist and Platonic mysticism. When a Muslim reads in his Holy Book which says what means Nothing is like Him; and He is the Hearing, the Seeing. He knows in brief the theories concerning divinity found in Saint Thomas books in which he maintains that Allah has nothing to do with contingency and that He was the exalted being Who was far above similar attributes. Allah, according to Saint Thomas, is distinct from the happenings. He is known by transcendence and anthropomorphism. Whatever the original source of Saint Thomas views, they are known to a Muslim through the Holy Book.
A Muslim, when he reads the verse ‘So flee to Allah. Surely I am a plain warner to you from Him’ knows the Buddhist mystic theory which says that worldly life pollutes the happiness of soul and that the salvation lies in renouncing the world and devotion to Allah alone.
The Qur'anic verse which says what means : "He is the First and the Last and the Manifest and the Hidden, and He is Knower of all things and Everything will perish but He; cover the entire field leaving nothing of the mystic theory that Allah is eternal and immortal. Allah has no attributes of time and space and His knowledge covers universalities and particles".
The Holy Quran says what means : "Allah is the light of the heavens and the earth, And Allah's is the East and the West, so whither you turn thither is Allah's purpose and We are nearer to him (Man) than his life-veins. In reading these verses, the mystic can do no better than to explain the basic idea of these verses by saying the real existence was that of Allah and that He is more close to the human beings than their own souls. Allah exists everywhere. The Quran also says what means : "And there is not a single thing but glorifies Him with His praise, but you do not understand their glorifications. Allah creates and gives orders. He is Acting and Willing. His will is not incapable of creation as believed by the philosophers who maintain that contingent volition or new creatures cannot spring from an old will". The Quran says what means:" His is the creation and the command. Blessed is Allah, the God of the Worlds".
The Muslim learns from his Holy Book that man's mind cannot grasp anything except what Allah wants him to do. The Quran says what means" He knows what is before them and what is behind them. And they encompass nothing of His knowledge except what He pleases".
A Muslim knows the difference between the world of phenomena and the inner world, or the world of reality and the world of law, because this is clearly stated in the conversation of Khadre and Moses who differed on certain point. The Quran says what means :" Then they found one of Our servants whom We had granted mercy from Us and whom We had taught knowledge from Ourselves. Moses said to him May I follow you that you may teach me of the good you have been taught? He said You cannot have patience with me. And how can have patience in that whereof you have not a comprehensive knowledge. He said If Allah Pleases, you will find me patient, nor shall I disobey you in aught. He said : If you would follow me, question me not about aught until I myself speak to you about it. So they set out until, when they embarked in a boat, he made a hole in it. (Moses) said Have you made a hole in it to drown its occupants? You have surely done a grievous thing. He said : Did I not say that you could not have patience with me? He said. Blame me not for what I forgot, and be not hard upon me for what I did. So they went on until, when they met a boy he slew him. (Moses) said : Have you slain an innocent person, not guilty of slaying another? Have you indeed done a horrible thing. He said Did I not say to you that you could not have patience with me? He said : If I ask you about anything after this, keep not company with me. You will then indeed have found an excuse in my case. So they went on, until, when they came to the people of a town, they asked its people for food, but they refused to entertain them as guests. Then they found in it a wall which was on the point of falling, so he put it into a right state. (Moses) said : If you had wished, you could have taken a recompense for it. He said : This is the parting between me and you. Now I will inform you of the significance of that with which you could not have patience. As for the boat, it belonged to poor people working on the river, and I intended to damage it, for there was behind them a king who seized every boat by force. And as for the boy, his parents were believers and We feared lest he should involve them in wrongdoing and disbelief. So We intended that their God might give them in his place one better in purity and nearer to mercy. And as for the wall, it belonged to two orphan boys in the city, and there was beneath it a treasure belonging to them, and their father had been a righteous man. So your God intended that they should obtain their maturity and take out their treasure a mercy from Allah - and I did not do it of my own accord. This is the significance of that with which you could not have patience".
These are clear verses read by all sections of the Muslims who no doubt have amongst them people having leaning towards mysticism and desire to discover the hidden spiritual meanings. If the latter decides to interpreted these verses they will find it very easy to approach the essence of mysticism with which the sages of all times and of all races have remained concerned. The Muslims who read the verses could claim to have original theories about the Divine philosophy. Their original views on the subject could be transmitted to other nations in addition to what they borrowed from the sages of India or of Alexandria.
Certain words are more expressive than volumes. Amongst these are those which are transferred from the language of one people to and fro, for they point to the transfer of forms of civilization and way of life from one nation to another. The conditions of life of a nation which existed before the adoption of certain foreign words clearly show us the change which took place after they were adopted for use in daily life.
European languages have certain words which indicate the influence of Arab civilization on European life through social contact, subordination or commercial exchange. Among these words are cotton, muslin, gausze, damas, cordevan, morocco, jupe, musk, attard, saffron, syrup, jar, sofa, rice, orange, lemon, sugar, coffee, candy, etc... These words are very common in English. French and some other European languages. The number of Arabic words adopted by Spanish and Portuguese runs in hundred. Among those words are : gaban, albanil, almacen, azotea, tariha, fonda, tahone, alhaja, albaran, aiquiler, alcoba, assaquiya, fanega, celemines, alcatifa, arroba, algibeira, afaiate, arratel and other words given to circulated commodities and places and towns.
These words are not mere additions to the vocabulary of the two languages. As matter of fact, they indicate the way of Arab life which colored the structure of life in these or other countries. These words show the difference between the living conditions of European nations before and after their contact with Arab civilization.
The Andalusian peninsula was not the only point where Europe met with the Arab civilization. There was no lull between the movements of caravans which carried goods from West Asia to East Europe in any period of history. Moreover, the Europeans learnt a lot about the East during the Crusades. What we can say for certain is that the Andalusian peninsula is the only country which enjoyed no other golden age except during the days of its magnificent Arab kingdoms. Even the period of Philippe the Second, which was marked by prosperity and grandeur is not an exception to the rule. Spain enjoyed luxuries in his days which did not originate in the country itself but came from its colonies following the discovery of the New World. His were not the days in which human knowledge grew and the intellectuals devoted time to further achievements or discoveries in their fields which might have won a name for the country.
In the golden age of Andalusia no European city from one end to the other could view with the cities of Spain in grandeur and civilization. Here Cordove alone could boast of having a copyist's house where one hundred and seventy slave girls worked to prepare copies of rare books. In the palace of the Caliph there was a library containing four hundred thousand volumes. European Lords felt proud if they possessed Spanish cloth, metallic jewellery or clay pottery, which were always unrivalled anywhere else. The population of Cordova numbered one million people and they lived in two hundred thousand houses. Not one single town in Europe had, at that time, more than thirty or fifty thousand inhabitants at the most orthodox estimate.
It was to Cordova and its sister cities of Granada, Seville, Toledo, Marsiah and Malaga that the emissaries of the kings of Europe came for medicine, gifts, luxury goods, articles of decoration, music concerts and singing. The English historian Stanley Lane-Poole, describing this briefly, said ‘The reign of Abdur Rahman the Third which was spread over nearly fifty years introduced such reforms in Spain that they cannot be accounted by imagination however wide its scope may be’.
There can be no greater testimony for the glory which Islam conferred upon Spain than that provided by the most ardent nationalists and by Spanish writers who had expressed yearning for their past and wished for the days similar to those of the Arab rule to return. In recent times Spain has not known a greater nationalist and a more distinguished writer than Blasco Ebaniz. He died a few years ago. No words written by any Arab or an Easterner can excel his writings about the grandeur of the Andalusian Arabs. In his most important book ‘Under the Shadow of the Cathedral’, he explained how the people coming from Africa were warmly received in Spain and how the villages surrendered to them without any opposition or any show of hostility. He mentioned that as soon as groups of the Arab horsemen approached a village doors were thrown open to receive them. Their arrival was always marked by greetings. The Arabs' Spanish campaign, he continues, aimed at civilizing the people; it was not a conquest or a movement to subdue a nation. Immigrants continued to pour in through the Isthmus, bringing with them their rich culture which was full of life and which soon embedded itself firmly in the country. Their culture showed vitality from its first day. It had something of the Prophet's sacred fervor. It contained the best of Semitic revelation, the arts and sciences of Byzantium, the legacy of India and the treasures of Persia and China. The East had crept to Europe following a route different from that of Darius and Xerxes who entered through Athens. The latter had to face opposition from the Greeks who defended their liberty. But this time, the East chose another road; it entered Europe from the Western side through Andalusia, where the divine kings and the crusaders were dominant. The East was welcomed by Spain.
Ebaniz goes on to say that within two years, the conquerors captured a kingdom whose inhabitants spent even complete centuries trying to retrieve their country from former conquerors. In fact, the Arabs' coming to Spain was not a conquest achieved by use of force. It was the coming of a new civilization which pervaded all walks of life there. At no time did the torch-bearers of that civilization forsake the freedom of conscience on which the real majesty of peoples depends. In the cities they captured, they allowed the Christians' churches and Jews' synagogues to function. The mosque had no fear of the temples which had different forms of worship. The mosque admitted others' rights and it stood side by side with the temples without envy or any attempt to dominate. As a result, the most rich and fine of all civilizations flourished between the eight and fifteenth centuries there. It was time when the nations of the North groaned under the pressure of religion and brutal fratricide. while the Northerners lived like savages in their backward countries, the Spanish people were flourishing and multiplying. They amounted to more than thirty million people, with a mixture of all races and different religious beliefs. In Spain, social life was full of activity in a way which had no parallel in the history of mankind excepting the United States of America where different races thrived and flourished side by side with each other. In the Andalusian peninsula, groups of Christians, Muslims, Arabs, Levantines, Egyptians and Moroccans lived together with the Jews of Spain and of the East. This produced a mix-up of peoples. There were naturalized Arabs among them; others who adopted the Arab ways and still others who had mixed blood in their veins. By virtue of this vibrating interplay of influences of different races, different views, traditions, scientific discoveries, education, arts, industries, modern inventions and ancient's systems flourished side by side. The faculties of innovation and modernism received a stimulus with the coming together of different forces. Silk, cotton, coffee seeds, paper, lemon, oranges, pomegranates and sugar came from the East! There were carpets, textiles, powder and decorated metals coming from there too. Decimals, algebra, chemistry, medicine, astronomy and rhythmed poetry were borrowed from the East.
Ebaniz adds even the Greek philosophers escaped oblivion by the grace of the Arabs whose conquests the Greek philosophers followed. Aristotle sat majestically in the University of Cordova the fame of which reached far and wide.
The Arabs of Andalusia became enamored of the idea of knighthood and this was adopted by the proof the North. It is mistakenly believed that none except the Christian people know it.
When the Franks, the Saxons and the Germans lived in caves and their kings stayed in darkened castles on hilltops, their men wore mail and ate the food which reminded of the stone-age man, the Arabs of Andalusia built imposing castles and frequented public baths - like the Roman nobles before them - to hold contests for matching of wits. They met there to discuss scientific theories, literature, poetry and events of every day life.
Whenever a Christian pries felt yearning for knowledge he went to any one of the Arab universities. The kings and princes had a deep belief that they could get rid of their diseases if luck enabled them to consult a Spanish.
Then, Ehaniz continues, came a time when nationalism was forgotten by the invaders and small Christian nationalities came around to engage the Arabs in military campaigns which did not entail destruction after a victory. Each one of them had deep respect for the other. They entered into agreements of long truce as if they wanted to keep away as far as possible the hour of final parting. By these agreements they appeared to be trying to coordinate their efforts for certain achievements.
These were the days when the entire Christian Spain enjoyed freedom long before Northern Europe knew it. She had her own independent financial system, the kings or princes were given military ranks, provinces became smaller republics run elected rulers. The volunteers in cities set the best example for democratic armies. The Christian Church was closely in touch with the people and lived peacefully with other religions; there was an active middle class in the country which developed different industries and created the most powerful of all naval forces on the sea coasts. Spanish goods flooded all other European ports and cities sprang up in Spain which could vie with modern capitals of our own age in density of population. There were certain villages which were famous for their textiles.
The Catholic kings ascended the thrones at a time when nationalism was at its highest. The length of their reign owes much to the sources of the Middle Ages which had abundant treasures deposited in the vaults of the previous centuries.
Ebaniz goes on to say that, despite all that, it was a disagreeable rule which had to face bad consequences. This rule made Spain drift away from the right path in politics, with the result that the country fell victim to hated fanaticism. It also sowed the seed of expansionism in colonialism.
In those days Spain enjoyed the same position which is enjoyed by Britain now. Had Spain followed the policy of the Arabs in matters of religious tolerance and cooperation with different peoples, continued the industrial and agricultural work began by the Arabs, instead of involving themselves in wars and colonialism, Spain would have been in a different position.
The Spanish character, the writer says, is more prominent in the European Renaissance than the Italian character, despite its patronizing of old cultures and Greek arts. The Renaissance was not restricted to the field of arts and literature; it produced for the world a new civilization complete with its traditions, industries, armies and sciences, all of which are the blessings of Arab, Christian and Jewish Spain.
It was the great general Joan Salfo who outlined the shape of modern war. Pedro Faro excelled all others in engineering and the Spanish armies used fire-arms for the first time in history. It is the introduction of gun powder which created infantry; it also turned wars into a democratic force because it provided superiority to the cavalry who were slaves of the aristocratic martial class.
Ebaniz continued to say that Donna izabella was very rash and a fanatic, as women usually are. She set up inquisition courts which led to the extinguishing of the flame of learning in the mosque and the synagogue. What was left was mere worship in the churches; it was the time of prayers only, the time for intellectual pursuits had gone. The Spanish intellect had to pass its time shivering in bitter cold dungeons gradually losing life and finally dying. If there was anything left of it, it was poetry, drama and religious bickering. All this because learning was supposed to lead one to hell.
This is the true Spanish testimony given by Ebaniz on behalf of the Arab State in Andalusia. It briefly recounts the agreed points of history; it is not simply a homage paid by a fair man gifted with imagination. None of the noted historians among the Arabs, the Europeans and the Spaniards had doubts about this account of the Arabs in Spain. There is a very small fraction of people who wrongly believed that Arab civilization in Spain was brought into being by the sons of the soil and not by foreigners who settled there. It is a quaint misconception which makes one feel asking. But why did not the Spanish genius flourish and bloom somewhere other than inside the Arabs' state? That genius did not show itself before the advent of Arabs, or after their departure, and the departure of their science, industries and civilization.
The reply to the above question will quieten the tongues of these fanatic who deny the facts, particularly those of them who have not a simple Spanish name among their followers. It is the Spanish people who cooperated with the Arabs in running the administration and developing a civilization. Could anyone quote a single statement saying that the Spaniards' participation with the Arabs was on a large scale.
What the description of the Andalusian civilization shows is that its impact on the European life was much greater and deeper than the history books tell us. We can see for ourselves that mere knowledge of one ideal or civilization, leave aside co-existence for centuries of a group of people, leaves its impression on people accepting that ideal. The French Revolution's ideals and aims have penetrated African and Asian countries, yet there are very few people who really know what the Revolution meant. Still it has left a deep impression on their minds. If Europe is not prepared to change its view regarding Andalusian civilization after centuries of its existence the fault, in this case, lies with the Europeans and not with the Arabs or Islam.
Ebaniz was right when he claimed that the Renaissance owes more to the Andalusian, rather than the Italian civilization which appeared later. The Renaissance was not an age of revival of ancient Greek arts sure and simple. In fact it was an age of revival of practical life, commercial and industrial services and a new understanding about faith, the world around us and the relations between the ruler and the ruled. It can be said also to have been an age of a new system of economy which changed the whole structure of social classes, from the upper down to the lowest.
Words and figures are capable of giving an idea of the impression the Arabs have left on sciences and industries. But this impression is so vast that it cannot be known through figures and mere words. People who deny that civilization passed away without leaving great impression are harboring a notion which is not supported by the human intellect. This notion is belied even by what we see around us and what we feel.
The Renaissance came in the wake of Andalusian civilization. The Renaissance brought about religious and later Political reform not a single European has denied the effect of one of these reforms or movements on the other. The fanatics cannot remove the link between one movement and the one following it.
May 19, 2013
How sad. They had so much potential and threw it all away. Their religion has destroyed their ability to contribute to the good of humankind.
February 28, 2011
I'm gonna take out the audio and make you say all sorts of silly shit.